Translink, the faregate, and the scofflaw

August 16, 2013

The Translink news reported by 24h [1] and already discussed by Stephen Rees:

People buying cash fare on bus, will not be able to transfer on the “gated” system, that is the skytrain, but also the Seabus

That is presented as a new tariff rule by Translink.

The scofflaw

Translink can’t change the short term fare at will, but need approval of the competent authorities, as stated by the law. Translink is governed by the South Coast British Columbia Transportation authority act. The act stipulates that when a fare increase (greater than 2% annually) or a first-time short term fare is contemplated, it requires that Translink

  • prepares a supplemntal plan to be approved by the council of Mayors (section 200)
  • And gets an approval by the Translink commissioner (section 203)

The Translink proposal is in essence a “first-time short term fare” for people buying cash fare on bus and transferring on train or bus (pretty much like people buying a cash fare at YVR pay a $5 “first-time short term fare”).

Unless Translink gets approval of the council of Mayor and Translink commissioner, it has no legal right to deny entry to the Skytrain and Seabus to holder of cash fare purchased on bus.

Doing so, by erecting a faregate, not working with those cashfare, is putting Translink in the feet of the scofflaw.

Obviously, like any scofflaws, it will have many excuses:

The Rubbish

  • “To convert all the bus fareboxes to issue passes that would access the fare gates would cost about $25 million”
  • The argument is so dump that it is borderline insulting

    No need to do that, what is just needed is a way to use the cash fare issued onboard a bus on the skytrain system. By own Translink’s number, a compass ticket machine (to put on bus) cost ~$15,000 [3]. have such machine just converting a magnetic cash fare to a Compass ticket can’t cost more (a magnetic strip reader is much cheaper than a machine sorting out coins). Installing one at each of the ~50 Skytrain stations, could cost less than $1 million. Probably much less, since what is just needed is to modify an already existing magnetic reader to allow it to read the cash fare (like the parking machine at the Vancouver airport does) or add an extra one, on an already existing Ticket vending machine.

  • “We are not unique in our approach. Many other transit systems around the world, including London and Paris, also don’t allow cash bus to rail transfers.”
  • That is again rubbish.

    • Both Paris and London faregates accept magnetic tickets
    • In Both Paris and London, the non transferable bus ticket was a policy preexisting the introduction of the smart card. At least in Paris, the Media used to issue onboard ticket is the same than the one used to issue off-board ones: the faregates are able to process magnetic ticket purchased onboard, read the information on it, and decide to open or not the door accordingly: It is a fare policy choice, not a technical limitation
  • “It is only customers who purchase fares on buses with cash who will not be able to use those transfers to transfer to rail—approximately 6,000 customers per day out of our 1.2 million daily rides”
  • How credible is this 6,000 figure? That doesn’t match at all my casual observation on the bus system (cash fare payment is indeed fairly frequent, may be 10% of the rider pay in cash), and it doesn’t match the translink latest annual report[2] either!

    • cash fare generates ~$100Million of revenue (that is 25% of fare revenue, so it is not marginal at all!) and you need to issue ~120,000 cash fare users per day to generate such a revenue stream…

    Even assuming that the majority of them are bought at TVM, we have all the reasons to believe that 60,000 is a much more plausible figure than this rubbish 6,000 one!

    The fact

    Translink clearly made a mistake in the implementation of its smartcard system, and instead to recognize it, try to explain it by lame excuses and deceiving tactics.

    Let’s hope the council of Mayor will respond appropriately to that, and deny the right to Translink to ban access to skytrain for holder of cash ticket purchased on bus, because it will,

    • Reaffirms its authority, hence confidence by the public that Tranlink, as a organization financed by taxpayer moeny is controlled by elected official, not bureaucrat
    • Affirms that what is at stake, is not a mere tariff change, but the aim and objective of Translink as a public service (accessible cash fare is an important aspect of that), what is the job of the politics, not of the bureaucrats

    If Translink doesn’t find a satisfying solution to accommodate the holder of cash ticket purchased on bus, it will have to leave the faregate doors open: that is simple and that is certainly the cheapest way!

    If Translink proceed against the law, it will be then time to launch a class action lawsuit on behalf of the cash fare holders.

    In the meantime, to prevent such eventuality, there is this online petition


    The Translink board of directors has enacted a bylaw on July 24th, 2013, to enforce the new proposed tariff.

  • Does it means it has the legal right to do so?
  • The SCBCTA allows the board of directors to change short term fare only under specific circumstances, and this to meet debt obligation (section 223.11).

    It is unclear how the board of directors can justify that the introduction of the Compass card, planned for years, meet the requirements to invoke such an extraordinary clause, allowing the board to by-pass the elected officials. there is strong indication that the board of directors has acted beyond its legal right.

    [1] SkyTrain won’t take bus transfers with new Compass Card system, Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver, Wednesday, August 14, 2013

    [2] Translink Statutory Annual Report, 2012

    [3] the $15,000 figure is inferred from the cost to outfilt all bus with a compass ticket vending machine, $25 Million, divided by the number of bus to outfit, ~1700. Typically a Ticket vending machine cost $50,0000 per unit.

    10 Responses to “Translink, the faregate, and the scofflaw”

    1. Angelie Says:

      You can’t even spell the word “rubbish” correctly. LOL

    2. Voony Says:

      Thanks for pointing the misspelling (I have corrected it)
      …Glad you can’t disagree on the content.

      …And since you send your comment from a Translink IP address, I am pretty sure you could have relevant elements proving me wrong whether I was, isn’it?

    3. mezzanine Says:

      Maybe it would be wise to wait to see what transpires WRT to low-income coverage.

    4. daka_x Says:

      Although cash fare generates 25% of revenue, you need to remember that a lot of these trips may be single-mode (i.e. bus only), not necessarily bus-to-SkyTrain as with the measurement.

    5. daka_x Says:

      I’m also going to nab a guess that the $25 million and $9 million costs for magnetic-reader-on-bus and magnetic-reader-at-station options respectively account for the reduction in benefits (thus cost-effectiveness) to be had with mass-use of Compass (less people use the card, need to produce more paper magnetic strips, deal with the waste, etc)

    6. S Says:

      It was mentioned in buzzer blog that the eventual plan is to eliminate paper transfer completely (ie. dump those paper ticket readers that’s being jammed everyday). So it would be logical to think they are trying to move as much people away from cash fare as possible, and not going to spend millions on something that’s going to be eliminated within a few years.

    7. Voony Says:

      I don’t dispute a policy encouraging cashless use of the Transit, neither I dispute the move to a smartcard system…

      But, as a matter of fact the cash fare media purchased on bus is, and will be for several years to come a magnetic based one.
      So those media will be still needed to be accounted for, no matter the transfer policy (this to answer to Daka).

      Their use could be reduced, by making the card reader compatible with the VISA PayWave and MasterCard’s PayPass (like done In London), but Translink, by forcing everyone to tap off (for basically no benefit, neither for the operator, neither for the customer), make this integration problematic.

      I dispute the fact that Translink, to suit technical choices, feel allowed to change its tariff policy, what is in clear contradiction with the SCBCT act: The translinkcommissioner site states how such tariff change should occur.

      The technical choice is justified aposteriori with fantasy numbers:

      The cost to accept Magnetic media:

      -The $25M was so ludicrous that the Translink COO quickly admitted that was a lie.
      He came with a new number: $9M to outfit 48 machines (at 47 skytrain station + the NorthShore seabus terminal) to be able to read a magnetic ticket:

      How credible is this $9M figure?

      that is $200,000 per machine to add/modify a reader, the kind of reader every pop and mom shop has…Seriously?

      For the record, Edinburgh is able to install much more than 48 full TVMs for £1.2M

      The number of affected customers
      I have mentioned that my casual observation suggested that 10% of bus rider pay cash.
      I was far below the reality: 28% of them was paying by cash in 2009 (when the technical choice has been done on the Compass/Faregate).

      It could be slightly lower today, maybe 25%, but that is still ~115,000 pax/day on the bus system alone…

      and only 5% of them could transfer on the Skytrain (when 30% of all bus passengers transfer on the Skytrain/seabus): again, that sounds a very ridiculous proposition: Translink has been unable to support it.

      In conlusion:
      It is much more than 6,000 people to be affected and it doesn’t require $Million to accommodate them…move a zero from the cost number to the number of affected people, and you will have a much more accurate picture.

      I should add: when a media communication compares a “customer” to a “ride”, what is obviously two different things, to make its case

      you have 2 choices:
      -It has been redacted by a grade 3, which has weakness in science/mathematic

      -It betrays a desire to deceive the reader.

      I incline for the second, and I think I bring enough supporting evidences here.

    8. Jeremy Says:

      I have been living in Vancouver for the past year, and coming from France, I can’t believe how stupid Translink think we are – fare raise, less flexible system, false information – I hope Vancouverites won’t let this pass as easily.

    9. jane doe of course Says:

      This is an older post I found by googling “Translink BC class action lawsuit”.
      It’s mind boggling that people would allow a transit system to have access to any individuals daily movement and tie it to their names and addresses through the compass card program. It’s no one’s business where you go on a system that is paid for by the people whether they actually ride it or not.
      I’m going to want to be reimbursed for every transfer I make that requires an additional payment.

    10. Russell Bateman Says:

      Hello Voony:

      it’s a little late, but thank-you for voicing and investigating the same issues over this blatant fraud that I have had since it was first announced. I notice that it has now fallen off the radar and has received no mention in the media for several months, as far as I can see.

      Judging from some of the comments I see both in your blog and in other media sources, I would be interested to know if, like government, Translink employs a fleet of pr trolls to lay on the propaganda–there is a tired uniformity about their ‘outrage’ over evaders, and the glorious benefits of compass.

      Thanks for your great efforts, I will be checking in frequently now that I have found it.


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