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Jackboots On The Bus

I was going to wait until I'd seen the BC Transit Police in action on my regular bus routes before commenting.  However, they haven't shown their faces yet -- and the bastards their bosses raised the fares!  So I'll say my piece now.

As of last Monday, Translink -- our local transit, ferries and roads operator -- has declared all buses to be officially "Fare Paid Zones".  That means it is an offense to be on a bus without proof of purchase of a ticket or ticket-equivalent such as a bus pass.  It's been that way forever on Sky Train and the Sea Bus, but they are aware the rate of fare avoidance is infinitely higher on the bus system; and so, the new policy may meet stronger resistance.

To cope with anticipated problems, the onus of refusing or sanctioning  non-paying passengers has been taken off the shoulders of the already-stressed-by-traffic bus drivers. Instead, the newly beefed-up BC Transit Police will enforce the rules.  Just what we need on our streets -- a posse of wannabe failed cops with guns.  Yes, guns!  Christ, anyone would think we were Detroit or Atlanta or Camden, New Jersey.

Armed police to make sure we all pay our two dollars and a quarter, or the hundred and seventy five buck fine if we don't.  What a stupid and dangerous idea.  And to make this week even more perfect, the Translink Board approved a twenty-five cent increase in fares!

My position has always been that transit should be free, so long as it is run by the government.   There are so many reasons why, besides the fact that it is just the right thing to do.  Economically, I bet it is easy to prove that the net revenue from fares after all costs of fare production, sale, enforcement and accounting have been removed, is minimal.  Certainly less than the economic bounce the region would get from the additional discretionary spending of those who previously paid fares.  Not to mention the political goodwill that would be generated.   

It would encourage beneficial environmental changes by significantly reducing the number of private cars on the road (transit ridership would doubtless increase with a zero cost); and will reduce the cost of expensive medical care over time as the general health of the population improves with an increase in walking.

It would encourage Translink directors to focus on improving services instead of trying to manage an armed militia for the sake of a few bucks.  With the elimination of the need for payment enforcement, the Transit Police can be shrunk to a reasonable size and the armed guards removed from the streets.

Its a win-all-around idea.   And about time.

July 1, 2007 in B.C., Capitalism, Government Intrusion, Transit, Vancouver | Permalink


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The biggest problem with so-called free transit is that every low life would be riding the bus or rails. You would never get rid of them.

Posted by: Andy Grant | Jul 2, 2007 4:42:38 AM

Define "low life"? Do you mean poor people?

Posted by: Jak | Jul 2, 2007 5:53:35 AM

Better yet - I'd like to know how he plans on "getting rid of 'em"...

Posted by: ranXerox | Jul 3, 2007 1:12:49 AM

I hear ya Jak! Not only do we have to look at insipid advertising, get passed by on rainy mornings (i.e. today) and put up with nonsensical schedules and grumpy-ass drivers (aside from a few ringers whom i thank), we gotta be aware of jack booted thugs patrolling our commute. Looking forward to one of them shaking me down for my pass. I plan to take a good fifteen minutes to pull my overpriced ticket out of my pocket while mumbling and belching. Not surprised that as soon as the cop squad was approved, the mass recruiting for more hardened thugs for Canada's first transit pigs stepped up (ads on the bus no less).

Geez while signing my kid up for a half day summer camp, i realized that it would be another almost $20 for a 5 days of rides - for a 3km bus trip for a 12 year old for a four hour visit to the rec centre. Absurd! I ride transit systems all over the world and used to boast about Vancouver's progressive and useful system. No more though - i am pissed an sick of paying $95/mo (due to increase) to be hassled and ghettoized on crowded buses while getting eyeballed by overwise hardly-employable hacks with their guns and ticket books. Do you feel safer? Of course the politicos wouldn't know - they don't ride.

Posted by: DaveO | Jul 20, 2007 9:56:36 AM

I put up a post a little while ago on my blog about
free fares
in response to Dave Olsen's five part series on the Tyee which advocated a fares free system.

Your assertion that there is minimal net revenue from fares in Greater Vancouver is easily disproved by a quick glance at their financial records. Over half their revenue comes from fares. So a free fare system would need at least to double the tax take, just to stand still. But what the region really needs is more capacity which requires more spending. I would like to see that come from the budget surpluses that the provincial and federal governments have been racking up for years.

Road use is underpriced. And as a result roads are overused. If we started charging true economic prices for road use, then we would also have resources to expand the transit system.

Posted by: Stephen Rees | Jul 26, 2007 12:19:13 PM

Stephen: your comments are always valuable. However, noting that half their revenues come from fares has little to do with my claim that the NET margin on fares (after ALL relevant collection and enforcement costs) is small indeed. This is compared, especially, to the political goodwill and extra local expenditures available through a free fare system.

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