Longtime transit riders request compassion from TransLink cops

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A lifelong transit user has said she is “absolutely disgusted” by a recent interaction she witnessed between TransLink police and a senior citizen.

On August 19, Shirley Hall, a retiree and volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, was riding the Number 16 bus west along East Hastings Street when two Transit Police Service officers boarded the vehicle and began checking tickets.

“There is some poor old geezer—I’d say he was about 70—and he had his walker and he didn’t have a ticket,” Hall recounted in a telephone interview. “So they said, ‘You have to get off the bus.’

“I said, ‘Look, I’ll pay for his ticket, I’ll pay his fare,’ ” Hall continued. “And they said, ‘No, you won’t. He has to get off.’ ” The man was evicted from the vehicle.

“I’m really appalled at what’s happening with the transit system,” Hall said. “I could see that the poor old guy was scraping close to the bone. You could see he didn’t have money.”

TransLink declined to make a representative available for an interview. In an emailed response, spokesperson Jiana Ling confirmed that riders holding tickets cannot save fare evaders from TransLink evictions.

“All persons using transit are required to provide proof of fare when asked,” she wrote. “The fact that someone else is willing to pay for them from that point of their journey onwards does not cover the retrospective offence.”

The email notes that TransLink officers do have the authority to exercise discretion in the issuing of tickets.

Susan Soper is another lifelong public-transit user. She’s worked in the Downtown Eastside for more than 25 years and described Hall’s story as “shocking”. Soper said she’s also noticed transit authorities’ aggressive ticketing, especially at SkyTrain stations. “It’s like a turkey shoot,” she told the Straight. “They’re just writing tickets all over the place.”

According to a March 2012 CBC news report, TransLink police issued an average of 150 tickets per day in the preceding 14-month period.

A rider found in a TransLink “fare paid zone” without proof of payment is subject to a fine of $173, according to TransLink’s website. If that amount is not paid within 180 days, the penalty increases to $213, and it goes up to $273 after 366 days.

Soper emphasized that she sees many TransLink employees regularly showing sympathy for people living in poverty. “The bus drivers seem to be compassionate and understanding, especially on the Hastings route,” she said. “I rarely see a bus driver say no, and people do just walk on.”

Soper noted that a one-zone fare of $2.75 isn’t much to a lot of people, but for somebody on welfare, public transit in Vancouver can easily become an unaffordable luxury. She suggested TransLink police could learn from bus drivers and give more thought to circumstance when issuing tickets.

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ursa minor

Aug 28, 2013 at 10:51am

Public transit in Vancouver is turning into a police state. I shudder to think of what's going to happen to people when their shiny new Compass Cards inevitably fail because they went through a magnetic scanner at an airport, library, retail store, etc. and they need to get where they're going NOW or else they lose their job, get charged for missed medical appointments, etc.

This kind high-stress, zero-tolerance environment combined with Translink's horrific lack of democratic accountability inevitably leads to civil unrest and incidents of violence. There's a clear reason why Translink is not cutting back on armed, uniformed officers while having most of the fare validation work being done by machines.

transit rider

Aug 28, 2013 at 10:56am

I have also witnessed the transit police along with NW City police anywhere from 2-4 individuals 'crowd' individuals that look mostly homeless or are students. They gang-ticket either on the platform or 'interrogate' on sktytrain itself. pretty claustrophic for that particular target. I have also seen transit police and NW City police conduct themselves in a friendly and acceptable manner, however the police that intimidate or attempt to intimidate riders are not appreciated. One man I spoke to after they demanded to see his ticket happened to be on disability, walked with a cane. There needs to be some compassion training for those officers that abuse their authority. Everyone should be treated with the respect that is due. Who the hell are they working for anyway?

Hazlit

Aug 28, 2013 at 10:57am

Sorry guys, but the law is the law. If you want to evade payment try stealing from a large corporation instead; public entities such as TransLink cannot afford to be compassionate and, unlike private corporations, they have no duty to be so.

DavidH

Aug 28, 2013 at 11:17am

I can't agree that bus drivers would be a source of inspiration for transit cops. Some, yes, but in my commuting days I saw too many examples of drivers ("men in uniform" mostly) treating the needy with utter contempt.

A skinny little jerk on the rush-hour 321 in Surrey was a prime example (and he knows who he is). He didn't just say "no, go away". He'd invite people onto the bus, then interrogate and humiliate them. He would actually "play" to the paying audience on the bus, grinning like some idiot, and asking embarrassing questions (e.g. "spent your money on booze today?").

The fact that some drivers are physically assaulted doesn't surprise me. I'd clock a moron like that and gladly suffer the consequences.

Repulsed Again by Translink

Aug 28, 2013 at 11:17am

These two cops followed the rules to an absurd and heartless end result, and they refused to use their common sense and find a compassionate resolution.

This reminds me of the time when four cops followed the rules until it led to the death of a tasered airport victim.

How difficult is it for cops to smarten up and use their judgment instead of power? Why have these people been hired? They clearly do not care about serving us, or they could have shown the slightest bit of compassion for this old and broke man with a walker.

Moebius Stripper

Aug 28, 2013 at 11:23am

"The email notes that TransLink officers do have the authority to exercise discretion in the issuing of tickets."

..."Neither Adrian Dix nor the officer who opted not to ticket him when he was caught riding the Skytrain without a transfer were available for comment."

Chris

Aug 28, 2013 at 11:27am

So they give the boot to an elderly man, but it's ok for Adrian Dix to ride for free?? Lest we forget..... how come Dix got off with a warning and this guy was thrown off the bus amidst a very humiliating scene? Thank you to miss Shirley Hall to come forward with this.

what are you all complaining about

Aug 28, 2013 at 11:43am

Its the new world order you dummies..cops with guns are just a bunch of sheepal, deguised as bullies.. everyone hates the police because they are the lowest scum on earth. In the old days cops used to be slaves because regular people would not do their job. Eventually we all will have to pay through the teeth to do anything, end up in jail and all impoverished. Wake up people this is just the beginning.

DavidH

Aug 28, 2013 at 11:58am

@ Chris: Obviously, you're not a commuter. You'd be hard-pressed to find a commuter who hasn't lost a transit ticket at some point.

And you don't seem to understand the concept of "discretion". When I lost my ticket, the attendant gave me a long, hard stare and walked away. Just like police often assess a situation and decide not to bring out the handcuffs.

I wonder how you voted (if you voted). With the BC Lib/Cons who appeased its conservative base with transit police and fare gates? If so, you got what you wished for. Get used to a government that wants to "get tough on poor people".

Jules

Aug 28, 2013 at 12:20pm

I have witnessed a lot of poverty shaming on buses in Vancouver. By the drivers and the transit cops. The swarming by these gangs is intimidating. I suffer from an anxiety disorder, I can't imagine what someone with any degree of mental illness and no doubt poverty would do. The lack of support from the government for those who are unable to work is disgraceful, if not human rights abuse. Rates for a single person on welfare range from 600 to 900. Oh you can 'earn' an extra $800 as an exemption, however - most people who are disabled by physical or mental infirm are rarely stable enough to do this. The province does provide a yearly bus pass if you qualify for $45 - however, these are often sold for food or bills, while the person takes a chance on transit. I am begging the Georgia Straight to follow up on the poverty angle of this story. Life in Vancouver is tough for the working poor, its even tougher for the disabled and elderly with fixed incomes and no relief. Research produced by the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary observed that the level of assistance available to a single person with a disability in B.C. is approximately $300 per month below the income deemed acceptable for a low income senior based on the standards established under the Federal OAS/GIS programs.
Over the last decade the cost of living has increased dramatically in B.C. but the disability benefit rates have not kept pace.
Since 2001, the PWD rate has increased by only $120 per month, while the cost of basic essentials such as food, shelter and basic communication has continued to increase. This means that there is a growing gap between the basic cost of living and what a PWD recipient can afford. And the sad part about it is the disdain and lack of support from the taxpayers. Just reading the comments about people on welfare and the assumptions made are sickening and it shows you how narcissistic the world has become. Everyone else is obsessed with their phones and computers - those of us on limited incomes get to watch from the sidelines and know that life isn't about stuff or what you have - you are blessed if you have friends and family who love you. Transit Cops, Drivers and their masters have lost sight of humanity. There needs to be provisions in place to compensate for impoverished citizens - but of course the challenge is the thin blue line

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