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Province gives TransLink new powers to collect fine from fare evaders

May 7th, 2012 · 52 Comments

As the economic world goes to hell in a handbasket, we’re still obsessed here in B.C. with the idea that someone is riding a bus for free.

To that end, Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom introduced new legislation today that will 1. Give TransLink new tools to go after fare evaders who are ticketed but don’t pay fines 2. Let TransLink have the money (he estimates $4 million, or half of the potential, and TransLink is still assessing that)

Among the mechanisms TransLink can now use

– have ICBC refuse to issue driver’s licences or vehicle registrations to people with unpaid fines (since only 30 per cent of those people have proven to have driver’s licences, in the past, obviously won’t be a deterrent to the other 70 per cent)

– refuse to sell them monthly passes (This had a lot of us reporters on conference calls confused, as many people buy monthly passes at convenience stores. Would people then have to show IDs and would the convenience-store clerk then have to check if they have fines? TransLink and the minister said this would all be worked out “through regulations” and so on.

– go after them in small-claims court. (This seems straightforward, though time-consuming. Hard to believe that the $173 fine would even begin to cover court costs.)

– take it out of provincial tax refunds. (This would be a worst-case scenario, not lightly employed, I’m told)

– allow various TransLink personnel to issue tickets, not just transit police.

TransLink’s Doug Kelsey also suggested Coast Mountain Bus would be re-examining its policy of drivers not asking people for fares. As anyone who rides the bus knows, drivers simply don’t engage, except in rare cases, in challenging anyone who doesn’t pay.

My guess is that all the publicity around this will produce more of a scare factor and also a cultural-acceptance factor that will induce people to pay for transit, so that the above mechanisms will not need to be used that intensively.

As well, once the Compass cards come into play, along with faregates, that will automatically reduce the possibilities for fare evasion, at least on SkyTrain lines. The B-line, or as the 20-somethings of my acquaintance call it, the free line, will remain an issue. Presumably the transit police will become more of a presence there once the faregates are in place on the SkyTrain system.


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