The B.C. government is drawing a bead on transit cheats, especially those who get caught and ignore their $173 tickets.
“Fare-evasion is a major issue,” said Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom. “People who avoid paying their fares are costing those who legitimately pay for their fares.”
During last year and the first two months of 2012, 64,000 SkyTrain and bus commuters were handed a ticket for not showing the proper fare.
Only 7,540, or about 11 per cent, of those tickets were paid, according to ICBC statistics. The percentage of unpaid tickets has remained stable over the past five or so years, during which time TransLink has faced funding shortfalls and the need to raise more revenue.
“We need a policy that is fair and equitable for all of our riders and the ability to raise revenues,” said Lekstrom, who said he only this week became aware that TransLink doesn’t have the power to enforce payment, because payment is handled by ICBC — nor does it keep the fines collected.
TransLink estimates its fare-evasion loss at $7 million a year.
Lekstrom’s promise comes almost five years after a PricewaterhouseCoopers report done for TransLink concluded that including consequences for not paying fines would have the “single greatest impact on fare evasion.”
The tickets aren’t turned over to a collection agency, nor are they linked to the violator’s ability to renew his insurance or licence.
TransLink CEO Doug Kelsey said he has asked for years for the necessary legislation to enforce payment. He said he favours offering an early payment discount and raising fines for repeat cheats. And he would like to see the proceeds used for TransLink’s operating budget.
In Toronto, offenders who fail to pay the $115 fare-evasion ticket can be compelled to appear in court and face a fine of up to $2,000 or six months in jail.