Tuesday, August 28, 2018

TransLink’s distance-based fare system and what it means for your commute

The Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation approved TransLink’s fare review recommendations at the end of July. While the new fare system approval did receive some media attention, I wanted to dig a little deeper into the changes.

People have known that the current zone-based system is unfair for many years. For example, it costs more money to travel between Scott Road SkyTrain Station and Columbia SkyTrain Station, than traveling between Lougheed Town Centre SkyTrain Station and Patterson SkyTrain Station. The current zone-based system was the result of the technological limitations of the old fare payment system.

When Compass Card was launch, buses transitioned to a flat fare. Flat fares will be maintained in TransLink’s new fare structure; the lowest fare will still apply.

For West Coast Express, there will be no changes to the current system right away. Over time, the fare structure will change from the current complex 5-zone system to station-to-station pricing.

The biggest change will be for people who take the SkyTrain or SeaBus which will be moving to distance-based pricing. The following chart shows how the proposed pricing will work.

How TransLink’s distance-based fare system will impact what you pay. Select chart to enlarge.

According to TransLink, 66% of current riders will see very little change to what they currently pay to ride transit. 17% of riders will see a 10% or more increase in what they pay, and 17% will see a 10% or more decrease in what they pay.

For people that use the Compass Card without an unlimited pass, the system will take care of figuring out the right fare. If you use a monthly pass, things will be a bit different.

You can purchase three types of unlimited-ride, zone-based adult passes today as follows:
1-Zone: $93
2-Zone: $126
3-Zone: $172

Moving forward, TransLink will be introducing distance-based, unlimited-ride adult passes. If you travel the kilometre value for the pass or less, you will be good to go. If you travel more than your pass’s kilometres value, you will be charged the different. This could take some getting used to for people.

If you only take the bus, you’ll still pay $93 per month. This would apply to anyone who stays within the South of Fraser. If you are like me, traveling between Langley and Downtown Vancouver, you will still pay the maximum unlimited pass price of $172.

The following is an illustrative example of what the new unlimited-ride, kilometre-value passes could look like:
5 km or less, and bus: $93
7 km or less, and bus: $110
10 km or less, and bus: $125
13 km or less, and bus: $140
17 km or less, and bus: $155
20km or more, and bus: $172

For people who use the HandyDART service, there is good news too. TransLink is proposing to allow people who qualify for concession fare to pay concession fare prices when using the service. Currently, all people must pay the full adult fare when using HandyDART.

Back in the day, zones were only in effect during the morning and afternoon peak travel periods on weekdays. During the mid-day, evenings, and weekends, you paid the lowest fare. TransLink will be exploring expanding the discounted fare program again. As noted in the recommendations, “discounts would be specific to key times – like early morning and mid-day – in geographic areas where overcrowding is most acute.”

The full list of changes can be viewed on TransLink’s website. For most people, they will see very little change in what they pay to use transit.

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