A long list of public transit gripes in a so-called world-class city

Today I was asked over Twitter what my complaints are about Vancouver transit. (Context: Petition calls for TransLink to scrap plans for “double transit fee” on cash purchases.)

As a person who's been riding this shit-tastic system for seven years, here's a list in no particular order:

  • TransLink's new fare-gate system will never pay for itself. One of its original selling points was a claim it's a necessary measure to stop fare evasion. Only four percent of fares are evaded, which is, at best, a $10 million per year savings. The cost of maintaining this new system is estimated at $15 million per year, which means it will never pay for itself.
  • The initial cost of the fare-gate system? $171 million.
  • TransLink never pays for itself. In 2011, the company generated $1.42 billion in revenue but spent $1.43 billion.
  • Under TransLink's new Compass system, if you purchase a fare for the bus with cash, you will not be able to use your transfer on the SkyTrain. TransLink spokesman Derek Zabel has said that to upgrade buses to be Compass-compatible would cost $25 million, so they didn't bother doing it. Zabel also says this will affect "only" 6,000 customers a day. Only? Good to know those 6,000 passengers—who are worth a minimum of $16,500 a day—aren't important to the corporation.
  • The Compass card costs $6. TransLink claims this is a refundable deposit, but if you are a regular rider, you will always need your card, so that $6 is a cost.
  • TransLink keeps cutting transit services while jacking up prices. 
  • TransLink scrapped the employee pass system, which offered a 15 percent discount to riders who committed to buying a year's worth of passes.
  • TransLink's new system eliminated the rule that if you bought a monthly pass, you could have family members ride with you for free on Sundays.
  • As of January 1, 2014, you will no longer be able to purchase seven- or 28-day passes for the West Coast Express.
  • The up escalator at the Commercial-Broadway SkyTrain station has been inoperative since May 6.
  • TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis was paid $382,954 in 2011.
  • It is pretty much impossible to get around some parts of East Vancouver after 10 p.m. at night. This means people often have to walk very far distances in the dark. I once walked five kilometres home because I was stranded and couldn't afford a cab. This is not safe.
  • The SkyTrain doesn't run 24 hours a day.
  • The SkyTrain breaks down all the time, leaving commuters stranded and frustrated.
  • THE FUCKING 99 B-LINE. It's overcrowded, it doesn't run frequently enough. It's almost tolerable in the summer, but as soon as the students go back to school, you can easily end up waiting for half a dozen buses to pass you up—and have ample time for an angry cry—before you can cram yourself on to one.
  • The 20 Victoria. What the hell is wrong with this bus? You sit for half an hour, no bus. Then three or four show up at once. Poor planning.
  • Did you know we're having a referendum on transit funding next year and no one knows what questions will be asked or how much funding will be sought, not even the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation?

And keep in mind, these are the complaints that immediately spring to mind.

So let's call this what it really is: this is a war on the poor. The people who most often use coins on the bus are the poor; by not allowing them to use their transfer for the SkyTrain—you'd have to pay twice to ride, or buy rent a Compass pass—you are penalizing the poor.

If you evade your fare—possibly because you are too poor to afford to pay—you get a $173 ticket. If you don't pay that back within six months, that goes up $60. If you don't pay with a year, it goes up another $40, gets sent to collections, and you are unable to renew your license or purchase vehicle insurance. Does it really sound fair to penalize someone who can't afford a $2.75 fare that much?

Here's my suggestion: 

EDIT: To be clear, I'm suggesting a fare strike, not a strike on riding. My apologies if that was unclear.

What's your complaint? Leave it in the comments below.

Comments (143) Add New Comment
an omaly
transLINK? who dare you call yourself that if your bus transfers will no longer be recognized at your skytrain gates. how does that link the transit? i'm so absolutely angered with this bullshit that i have no other coherent words for you other than YOU SUCK.. YOU GREEDY OVERPRICED PIECE OF USELESS SHIT!
Rating: +133
Martin Dunphy
By "strike", do you mean a fare strike or a service strike?
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Rating: +23
Dan Clay
Please rid us of an unelected, BC Lib appointed , board, that gets a 1200.00 a month car allowance. Stop this Holiday and Sunday Nonsense..just as many people ride transit on weekends...the transit police have to enforce the signs that say "no smoking on Transit Property" and take this public health problem as serious as they take fare evasion...
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Rating: +51
Judi Babcock
On a recent trip, I extensively used public transit in both Sydney and Melbourne Australia over a 7 month period. Many services (bus, train, tram) in those cities use card systems. Melbourne uses their Myki card system that costs a set fee to set up, then is loaded either as cash or for a set period (weekly, monthly, etc) You can't use the trains/trams with cash, so you need to purchase ahead of time at a 7/11 or other seller. Sydney, uses a paper card/cash combo and SOME buses allow you to pay cash, but others are pre-pay only. Trains are card access (currently paper passes but they're transitioning to a similar loadable card system). All cities I visited (including Adelaide) charge per zone, and fares can be close to $5 for a one-way fare. A WEEKLY pass in both major cities is approx $45 for single zone, and a trip to the airports will cost you an extra $15 for each direction. Service in some areas in the burbs is spotty outside of rush hour. Fare evasion fines are equally stiff as Vancouver.

Comparatively, Toronto's TTC doesn't allow stopovers unlike Vancouver, so if you try to transfer from a different spot from the one allowed, you have to pay again and they're rude about it. Burbs service after hours also is spotty.

That said, Vancouver doesn't have perfect service but it's still fairly affordable and comparable to other cities. Should we roll over and not keeping pushing for better service? Of course not. I believe that seniors, those with lower income, and all students (not just those under 16) should be allowed concession fare price. Melbourne allowed for concession tickets to be sold to these groups, including war vets and care givers. I'm sure many readers will have other transit tales of their own to share.
Rating: +90
Dan Clay
I also would like this myth about "Fare evasion", to be considered in light of the Conservative senators who have been getting a free ride,over and over and over.What about the water bottling company, in BC, getting our water..for free..making a huge profit; a free ride, at our expense,,?This whole COMPASS thing is a corporate profit guarantee. Those tap machines, recently installed.in busses, are they giving off more electromagnetic pollution ? adding another level of danger and stress to riding an obsolete system, that calls itself PUBLIC TRANSIT.
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Rating: +19
Steve Bell
So instead of paying twice you make a 1-time purchase of this compass and your transfers are accepted? We're griping over $6?
Rating: -70
Verbs
Let's strike. Enough is enough.
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Rating: -1
_Verbs (on twitter)
Why not just accept the transfers (for however long)?

I could just as easily turn it around and say, "Oh, translink is griping over some minority number of people who don't want to have to abandon things they have already paid for?"

Rating: +137
LSC
A friend of mine said it right
"So let's call this what it really is: this is a war on the poor. The people who most often use coins on the bus are the poor; by not allowing them to use their transfer for the SkyTrain—you'd have to pay twice to ride, or buy rent a Compass pass—you are penalizing the poor."
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Rating: +44
Rob J
What an incredibly whiney, self serving, joke of an article.

I have been rising Translink my whole life and independently since around age 13 (11 years ago now). I complain about it all the time to my friends and family who also complain about the same thing. But you know what? That's true of EVERYTHING.

I'm sure if this author bothered to buy a bike and ride around for free 6-8 months of the year he would complain about how the city is screwing him with their helmet laws/fines and congested bike routes. If he drove from a suburb like so many middle class lower mainlanders do he would complain about gas taxes and bridge tolls.

Yes, about 6,500 people a day will have to ADJUST their habits. Boo freaking hoo. Anybody who is "poor" is already going to be buying fares savers since they are cheaper than paying cash and they will transfer to compass cards which will do the same. Anybody who RELIES on translink will be buying a monthly pass since it is usually the cheapest option.

I think the Compass system is a bit of a cluster**** and am certainly not a fan of TransLink as a company but seeing the Straight post this kind of narrow minded garbage and call it journalism is ridiculous.
Rating: -78
Martin Dunphy
Rob:

Know who RELIES on transit the most? Those who can't afford to shell out the cash for a monthly pass at one go.
Damned whiners, the lot of them.
Don't step on any landmines, dear.
(Apologies to John Cleese.)
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Rating: +10
heisenberg
the problem is transtink is accountable to no one.

hey, but at least Vancouver has bike lanes that do nothing to help commute from Surrey.
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Rating: +32
Rob J
Anon: those people should be thrilled at the new compass card. You can load it up with $5 or $500. Even better for the homeless, shelters can give out cards subsidized by their agreements with translink and be able to load them for the people in their shelters as they see fit.

If there are people out there who REALLY can't afford the $6 for the card then they have MUCH larger problems that should be looked at by the city/province/country, not TransLink.
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Rating: +2
Natty
1) When you claim your transit passes for Federal taxes, you are supposed to hang on to your monthly passes (in case they audit you). In the case of a pre-loaded fare card, how can you track monthly spending?

2) It drives me nuts to see half empty buses coming from Coquitlam. I realize once the Evergreen Line is up, this will be moot, but if there's space what is the problem with letting people on at urban stops when the driver does a drop off?

3) How exactly will the Compass system prevent fare evasion on a bus? It might make it harder for Skytrain travel, but it won't change anything for bus riders.
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Rating: +11
Bob Ostle
I would appear that TransLink is moving to a user pay system by getting rid of discounts etc. However, they need to cancel ALL passes handed out to their employees and other lackies to make this palatable. No free rides includes everyone. San Fransisco has a card system (Clipper) which seems to be fair and accepted. The Muni only costs $2.00 to use and does not up charge.
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Rating: -17
Christine
Strike? Are you kidding me? How am I supposed to get to my job at UBC from downtown every day? And do not tell me to buy a bike, not everyone is cut out for that.
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Rating: +3
Poor Boy
The first time you load up a Compass pass with a hundred bucks and it falls out of your pocket, and Translink tells you to go screw yourself, the real intent of this will become clear.
Gift cards for transit. They profit when you misplace.
Rating: +68
Lisac
I take transit all the time, forget trying to get on with a double stroller most of the time. And transhit is a joke, I am buying a new car for myself and kids to travel. Fuck man, I might as well since if i add everything up in the end, it's going to cost as much in one to two years, and I can go farther with my kids. I wanted to be all Echo friendly... but translink has made me hate them specially in the last i unno 15 years... Ill strike, already started, and my SO won't be traveling translink either.. Sub par is right!
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Rating: -8
de
you guys are all fucked
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Rating: -32
Lindsay Dianne
How is it that the transit system in the GVRD continuously gets worse? Translink has every opportunity to improve on the transportation options for commuters and daily travelers in our growing region and manages to consistently do everything in the most expensive and ineffective way possible. How is this a thing?
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Rating: +40

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