Does anyone pay TransLink fines?
Question: How effective has Translink been in collecting the fines for tickets issued for fare evaders?
Answer: Amazing how much traction this topic has gotten in recent weeks. The world’s in a recession, Europe is in a tailspin, and we’re facing debt and deficits in the billions of dollars at the provincial and national level, but people are passionately concerned that someone has skipped out on their $2.50 bus fare.
But I digress and I’ll bite on this one. First off, TransLink hasn’t been effective at all — mostly because TransLink doesn’t collect them, ICBC does. However, it does track the results.
I looked back at previous TransLink reports to see if there was anything there. (As I always tell my students, check the documents first. At least if they don’t give you answers, you might have more intelligent questions to ask.)
In 2002, a report by then finance vp Ian Jarvis (now CEO!) estimated that about 11 per cent of people fined actually paid their fines. (And it was estimated that about four per cent of riders did not pay fares.) He noted that it was hard to get more compliance because there is no real penalty for people who don’t pay, the way there is with parking tickets or speeding tickets. He said then that the province collected only about $220,000 in fines from $2 million worth of tickets handed out.
A PriceWaterhouseCoopers audit in 2007 estimated the fine-payment level at eight per cent of all of the 30,000 people ticketed in 2006. It noted there is a one per cent chance a rider will be ticketed and a 0.1 per cent chance that someone will pay a fine.
I asked for updated numbers from new TransLink spokesperson Erin Dermer, who dug around for a few days and found this: Between 2006 and 2010, about 15 to 20 per cent of people paid their fines. I asked why those numbers didn’t jive with the PWC audit. She didn’t know, but apparently the numbers come straight from ICBC, which is the agency that collects the fines.
She said that the first three months of 2011, the rate had risen to 30 per cent. That’s because ICBC has started sending out letters sooner to warn people to pay.
In 2010, the agency collected $500,000 in fines. She wasn’t able to find out if ICBC has ever had anyone arrested for non-payment of fines, which I seem to recall reading somewhere is a final option.
Interesting fact, by the way. TransLink does not get the fine money. The province does. There is still not a great mechanism for forcing people to pay fines. People who have car insurance will be required to pay any outstanding TransLink fines before they can get their insurance. But that doesn’t work for the many people fined who don’t have car insurance.
There you go. Enjoy your free ride. See you in court — not!!