[edited on May 30th 2010]

This post is written in the context of the decision to move from the current honor system to the barrier controlled access rail transit system in Vancouver. The capital cost involved by the move is estimated at $100 millions [3]. the cost of fare evasion on the Vancouver rail system is estimated at $3.5 millions per year [4].

Fare evasion

At the beginning the Paris subway had human fare control at its gates. In a move to save on fare control operating cost, the Parisian transit agency, had started to implement turnstile, pretty much in the style seen on the Toronto TTC or the Vancouver seabus…
But Quickly, it appeared that the lack of human control once in the subway system was a pretty good incentive to dodge the turnstiles.

The full display of fare evasion as well as turnstile dodging technique associated with perceived impunity of such behavior, has encouraged wide spreading of similar conducts in the Paris subway, then adopted by people of all conditions as illustrated below


A French countryman, Jacques Chirac, dodging a turnstile in the Paris subway on Dec 5, 1980, station Auber. He was then Mayor of Paris, he will become head of State (credit photo bnf)

That has lead the French transit agency, the ratp to adopt more elaborate faregate, now featuring full door.

  • either the door stay open long enough, and several people (following close enough) can pass the gate with a single fare.
  • or the door close very quickly, and you can’t cross the gate with any luggage, or stroller.

In despite of tremendous investment in fare gating, fare evasion is estimated at 10% in the Parisian subway what is in fact comparable to the access free subway in Berlin [7] and way much more than the 5% measured in Vancouver [4] or 6% on the access free subway of Los Angeles in 2007 [8]

in any case, the turnstiles are an impediment slowing down the flow of transit riders, and the good thing introduced by smart-cards, is that it allow to mitigate this point.

One will note that if fare evasion was the justification for a fare gating, subsidy could be then not necessary. In reality fare evasion on Vancouver transit system is as low as 2.5% system wide (5% on the Skytrain, what amount to $3.5 millions revenue lost a year, which could be only partially recovered by turnstiles) [4], that is nowhere near to able to justify an $100 million investment [3]. In comparison of other systems [7][9][10], there is a generally good level of compliance in Vancouver, observation that the casual observer could have confirmed during the Olympic games, by watching the sometime hour long line-up at the fare vending machine .


It has been a strange and unsubstantiated claim done by the British Columbia government that the fare gates could increase the security on the skytrain [2].
The opposite could be more true: In fact, the diversion of resource going to the maintenance and amortization of the fare gates, instead of human staffing are of nature to make the system less safe.
The creativity of the fare gate dodgers and other smugglers being boundless, it appears that nothing is able to replace human staffing as the picture below illustrates and could also apply to Canada [6]


Police, at Paris Gare du Nord, in April 2007, makes sure everyone is paying his fare!

Nevertheless, the unsubstantiated BC government claim will suffice to justify to allocate $70 millions of subsidy by senior government toward a fare gating system on the Vancouver rail network [3]

The smart card

Another strange association has been done in BC between the turnstile and the smart card. Both can be put in place separably, as it is done on numerous transit network.

smartcard access to the subway of Rennes, France, is done without turnstile. Nevertheless, notice how the smart card readers are placed in prominent position on the farepaid zone line (credit photo wikipedia commons)

The distance based pricing

That seems the only reason a network transit the size of the Vancouver one, could wish to adopt turnstiles control. Controlling entry and exit of the network effectively allows the transit operator to charge by the distance, as done in some rail network, more noticeably on the Hong Kong MTR [5]

Still, in this case, one will find curious the government interference in a matter which should be a priori leads by economic consideration.

Even so: the logic would like that the smart card come first, since it can work currently in the 3 zones model, which is common to numerous network, like the Paris one, and turnstiles in a second phase. Curiously, according to the VancouverSun [1], it is the reverse we gonna see, and suffer all the inconvenience of the faregate, including compromised ease of access to the transit system for people with special needs; from the traveler with luggage, to the wheelchairs, without the advantage of the smartcard.

[1] Olympic commuters sticking with public transit, Vancouver Sun, May 25, 2010

[2] Free rides approach end of the line on SkyTrain, CBC, November 09, 2007.

[3] Canada, BC and TransLink Invest in Transit Security Improvements, press release from Canda government, April 09, 2009

[4] Fare evasion Internal Audit, by PriceWaterHouseCoopers, Translink, September 2007

[5] Notice that such distance based pricing model can a priori apply only to the rail network, and not the bus one. Nevertheless, the smart card can allow implementation of a bus route based pricing like on the model of Hong Kong

[6] Montreal police quell subway brawl, Globe and Mail, December 27, 2009.

[7] TTC fare collection study, TTC, October 2000.

[8] Metro Rail Gating Study, Metro Los Angeles, November 15, 2007

[9] Toronto TTC has a fare evasion of as low as 0.7% on its subway [7], but one should note that all the turnstiles lines are constantly monitored by human staff, via strategic location of ticket office at the stations, as well as additional staffing at rush hours. Non staffed entrance, are equipped of full rotating door, unable to accommodate people with special need (wheelchair, stroller,…). In conclusion, it could be hard to conclude that the low fare evasion number is achieved by turnstiles alone. This observation can be confirmed by the number from the New York subway able to reduce from 3.5% to 0.5% the level of fare evasion through policy measures [7].

[10] The level of fare evasion is estimated at 5% in Montreal, where the subway is accessed throug fare gate, as estimated by the Montreal Transit Agency (stm communiqué, April 21th, 2008 )

Viaduct des arts, Paris

Viaduct des arts, Paris

Rail viaducts have being a fixture in numerous cities since the introduction of the railway. They can be considered as an urban blight and objectively often disrupt the urban fabric, but here we present some examples showing that it can be different. Surprisingly enough, it seems that it is a reconsideration of the purpose of disused viaduct in the city [2] which has lead to rethink of its urban integration. Typically this consist to bring, under the viaduct, urban activities contributing to the street life: That means not considering the Viaduct as part of the street itself, but as a building lining up the public space.

Vienna, Austria
Viaduct in “median”

A viaduct in Vienna, once a barrier in the middle of an artery, now is a building lining streets on its both sides. Note how the shops lining the street capitalize on the once a median separation (credit photo: Architekten Tillner)

Buenos Aires, Argentina
A Viaduct lining up a park

In Buenos Aires, the viaduct function, is enhanced by street life contributing activities. Again here the barrier nature of the viaduct is fully assumed, separating a park of its urban environment, and eventually reinforced, with this viaduct arch reconsidered as a “passage”, clearly indicating the “human scale” nature of the expected traffic and enforcing the “oasis” feeling of the park (credit photo Polycentric Linear City)

London, UK

Wotton Street, The structure on the right is a viaduct!

Only around 50% of the londonian Tube is underground. this and the numerous railway network left the British capitale heavily sliced by Viaduct “cut”. Lately tremendous effort has been taken to address the issue, as witnessed by the project “Light at the End of the Tunnel” in the context of the “crossriver partner ship program”

Paris, France
Beside the much acclaimed viaduct des arts (a former railway viaduct), Paris is also well furnished in metro viaduct. They offer to us an opportunities to showcase some idea eventually not working that “well” when you treat the space under viaduct as public space.

The Viaduct of Bercy in Paris, while offering an appealing look doesn’t work that well as a bike path host: the cyclist has basically no visibility, and the “enclosed” nature of the viaduct prevent natural washing of the pavement (credit photo: zagreus)

The space below Paris viaduct is rarely appropriated by the public, one reason could be due to the fact that the steel girder structure is pretty noisy on train passage. The fact that the space is in the median line of boulevard is not helping to draw public naturally. bike path could make a better use, but viaduct piles are as many hazard limiting the visibility of the cyclist (one will note that the Richmond viaduct turn out to be more appropriate to such an use) (credit photo, Duncjam and moonmeister)

One will find some other example on the web [3], but the one exhibited here tend to demonstrate that the integration of a viaduct in the urban fabric is something perfectly doable, backing the effort done on the Richmond viaduct.

[1] Light at the end of the tunnel: Transforming railway viaducts in central London

[2] from the viaduct des arts in Paris to the HighLine in New York, there are numerous of disused viaduct going thru a renaissance life, with usually the patform being transformed in a green public space ( a list of some projects)

[3] Noticeabily The reader will find other similar example for Berlin at the HumanTransit blog, and more generally could like to take a look at a dedicated thread on skyscrapercity forum