Let's Knock Off the Fare Box

Olsen, Dave

Publisher:  The Tyee
Date Written:  12/07/2007
Year Published:  2007  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX20490

Olsen supports the argument in favour of fare-free transit by investigating the costs surrounding fare collection that are left largely unexamined by officials and unannounced to the public in various North American cities.



I tried to get the hard numbers in British Columbia by repeatedly contacting the eight largest transit systems in B.C., as well as the branch of B.C. Transit that supports the smaller transit systems. TransLink, with a transit-dedicated operating budget of $500 million in 2005, told me it spends an estimated $2.4 million each year on producing what are called "fare media" -- things like month and day passes, transfers, vending machine tickets and any of the range of other specialized transit products available to customers (U-Passes, FareCards, FareSavers, community passes and the like).

But that number leaves many other costs associated with fare collection completely out of the picture, including the expensive machines used; the collecting and counting of money; commissions to third-party vendors; lost productivity for bus trips due to having to explain prices and accept payment from riders; the staff time involved in figuring out when and how to raise fares; and so on.

And that's not even considering the costs of enforcement: TransLink has been bombarding riders with advertisements about fare-paid zones on buses and how they consider it illegal to give or sell valid transfers, as well as creating Canada's first transit police force two years ago, with an annual budget of over $12 million.

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