B.C. fare gates end the need for transit cops 0
If you’re reading this on the bus or SkyTrain, there is a good chance fewer of your fellow passengers are cheating the system. That’s what Webster-nominated CKNW reporter Janet Brown discovered this week when she asked TransLink for the numbers.
In Sept. 2011, there were approximately 164,000 fine checks resulting in 5,000 tickets being issued. Last month there were a staggering 230,000 fare checks, but only 2,900 fines were written up for transit scofflaws. Each time someone gets caught it will set him or her back a hefty $173 — assuming he or she is inclined to pay up.
There are many theories floating out there as to why, despite conducting more fare checks, the total number of fines declined by more than 40%. The most credible reason has to be the significant media attention paid to Premier Christy Clark’s new legislation cracking down on fare evaders.
Earlier this year, Victoria finally introduced legislation aimed at closing a significant loophole which allowed cheaters to avoid paying their transit fines. Now, if you decide to board a SkyTrain without paying, TransLink is able to track you down when you renew your driver’s licence or car insurance. This clearly has a lot of people thinking twice about the risk of getting caught for fare evasion.
With new fare gates being installed at SkyTrain stations, security measures will tighten up even further in the coming months. It has some government watchdogs rightly wondering if we will still need all those costly $100,000-plus transit cops who focus mainly on fare checks.
Given what has transpired in the past, there is a strong likelihood this will become an issue in the upcoming provincial election.
The BC NDP have already gone on record as opposing fare gates and supporting the hiring of more transit cops. In 2007, opposition leader Adrian Dix said the government should increase the number of transit police by at least one third. That would have translated into the hiring of 60 more officers.
“Part of our responsibility is to make sure people are safe, and that means taking the necessary steps to hire more security staff to ensure a more consistent police presence across the transit system,” said Dix at the time in a written statement.
Regardless of whether this issue becomes fodder for a political debate, one thing is for sure. For the select group of people who felt they were above the law, the cost of riding public transit just got a tad costlier.