SkyTrain fare gates earlier dismissed as too costly
Published: Friday, November 09, 2007
VANCOUVER - Putting fare gates on SkyTrain and the Canada Line would cost more than $30 million a year to install and operate and reduce fare evasion by less than $3 million, a report prepared by TransLink's staff predicted just two years ago.
On Thursday, Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon announced plans to install fare gates in a bid to reduce fare evasion and improve public safety.
The proposal - which Falcon says will be paid for entirely by the province - has the support of Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, TransLink's chair.
However, in December 2005, TransLink's board overwhelmingly rejected fare gates after a detailed report by its staff found it wouldn't come anywhere close to paying for itself.
Vancouver city Coun. Peter Ladner, a TransLink board member, said Friday he was not sure why gates are a better idea now than they were two years ago.
"I'm quite puzzled by this decision and I'm looking forward to hearing the justification for it," he said.
He noted TransLink has already invested millions of dollars in hiring SkyTrain police to reduce fare evasion.
"I'd like to see ... whether we can achieve the same goal with a better use of their resources rather than jumping into a system we've previously decided didn't make economic sense," he said.
George Puil, who was chairman of TransLink from 1998 to 2003, said the board looked at fare gates twice during his tenure and was convinced both times that they cost more than they were worth.
"I think the money could be used elsewhere," he said. "You could use it to have more police ... around SkyTrain stations."
In an interview Friday, Falcon estimated that installing fare gates at all stations would cost in the "$80 million to $100 million range."
He acknowledged, however, that only covers one-time construction costs. TransLink's 2005 report estimated that, on top of that, it would also have to hire nearly 400 attendants to staff the gates, both to ensure people weren't jumping over them and to let through those who can't use them, such as people with excess luggage or in wheelchairs.
Combined with the costs of installing the new gates, amortized over 20 years, the 2005 report put the total annual cost of fare gates at $32.2 million.
In contrast, it estimated gates would reduce fare evasion by only $2.9 million. Based on extensive spot checks, TransLink estimates that about 4.9 per cent of SkyTrain revenues are lost through fare evasion. Falcon and Brodie said they think the rate is much higher.
"There's no way in an open system you're going to be losing that little," said Falcon. He said transit operators in Europe told him their fare-evasion rates are as high as 30 per cent.
However, neither Falcon or Brodie was able to identify any flaws with the way TransLink compiled its figures.
"I just believe the numbers are higher [from] the times I've ridden the system," said Brodie. "It's not scientific, it's anecdotal. But I certainly believe it."[/color][/B]
The report states that many people believe fare evasion is higher than it really is because they see so many people get on the train without buying a ticket.
However, TransLink spokesman Ken Hardie said most of those people actually have paid, either by buying a monthly pass or transferring from a bus.
Falcon said he's convinced that, over time, gates will pay for themselves by reducing evasion. But even if they don't, he said, the province thinks it is worth doing to reduce crime on transit. In the first six months of this year, TransLink's police service recorded 189 drug crimes, 381 property crimes and 239 violent crimes.
Simon Fraser University criminologist Paul Brantingham said research suggests fare gates can deter crime both on the transit system itself and around stations, by making it more of a hassle for criminals to get on.
Nancy La Vigne, an expert on transit crime at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., said it may seem strange that a two-dollar fare would deter any criminal from using SkyTrain. But she said research shows most criminals are not very motivated, committing crimes only when the opportunity arises. The hassle and cost of a turnstile, she said, will be enough for many to hang out elsewhere.
"Little changes that make things more difficult can have a big impact," she said.
© Vancouver Sun
YouTube video: BOSTON -- The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is looking for a man who broke a gate at a subway stop early Wednesday (Aug 29th, 2007) morning to avoid paying the fare.
A security camera caught a middle-aged black male with a large build and shaved head squeeze through a passenger gate at the Green Line's Science Park at about 5:50 am on Wednesday. When the man pried apart the 1-inch glass gate, it broke.
• Video Link