Longtime transit riders request compassion from TransLink cops

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.

Comments (61) Add New Comment
ursa minor
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.
Rating: +24
transit rider
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?
Rating: +15
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.
Rating: -48
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.
Rating: +27
Repulsed Again by Translink
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.
Rating: +26
Moebius Stripper
"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."
Rating: +12
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.
Rating: +21
what are you all complaining about
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.
Rating: -18
@ 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".
Rating: +27
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
Rating: +8
I am more than happy to pay and watch other (poor) people walk on for free. Maybe what Vancouver needs is a pay-it-forward system (like the paying coffee for other people). Or less police. or both.
Rating: +14
Agree 100% with the writer
This morning coming off Skytrain downtown, I saw two Translink police officers issuing a ticket for fare evasion to a homeless man. The man looked like he was starving and his eyes were glazed over. It boggles the mind that highly paid police resources are being used to nab jaywalkers in the DTES and impoverished fare evaders. There is something also very creepy about two of these uniformed hounds towering over a defenseless person. They look like a bunch of cowardly bullies.

Bus drivers, on the other hand, routinely allow the homeless and otherwise very obviously poor people to ride for free. Because they have common sense.

I'd much rather the police be used to secure safety-impaired zones than be used for this tawdry job.
Rating: +22
I ride the #3 bus every day, and personally, I'm tired of all the fare evaders and welcome cops to board and check. Why the hell should I pay when people are just walking on and asking for a free ride?? I pay $80 a month to get to work and back - what's the incentive to pay at all if others ride for free?
NOt saying this wasn't a bit harsh because it was, but I'm tired of people getting on with huge bags of empties taking up the entire front of the bus and not paying. Enough.
Rating: -12
Monthly pass commuter
I'm on the fence about enforcement. I feel frustrated with fare evaders when the 120$ two-zone pass is a significant dent every month. But I don't find it effective to fine people who don't have the means to afford a ticket.

Seems like this is a symptom of a larger issue...Why is our transit system not affordable? Why is Translink putting us in a Catch-22 situation of paying huge salaries for transit officers, to crack down on people who can't afford to pay transit because the fees are so highly inflated?
Rating: +32
"No Fun" Vancouver is rapidly becoming "No Heart" Vancouver thanks to the "leadership" of the myopic Vision Vancouver Mayor and Council.
Rating: -10
TransitRider wrote: "what's the incentive to pay at all if others ride for free?"

Oh, I dunno ... maybe because you can afford it and others can't? What's the incentive to pay for groceries if some people get them free at a food bank? Why shouldn't we all line up for a free turkey dinner at Union Gospel?

I'm not suggesting that there aren't some true "freeloaders" on transit. But in my long experience of riding the rails, most of those who can't pay full fare have a legitimate reason for being broke.

Would hatred of others be a legitimate reason for not paying a fare?
Rating: +12
Get a bike if you don't like. I hate Translink. I ride all over the city quicker than any bus route. Why complain when you know it isn't going to change. Hit these mofos in the wallet instead of yours. I'd rather be fit and have freedom of movement than have a tazer pointed to my head.
Rating: +1
@DavidH I too have seen a bus driver in surrey tease a potential rider. The rider asked if the bus went to Langley (It did) but the bus driver refused to tell him and told him that if he could not read the sign, he could not come on the bus. The driver was laughing so hard that he missed the construction sign saying which lane was open and drove on into oncoming traffic. He said to us that he had to use that lane the week before and didn't see the sign. After backing up he took us down the wrong road and admitted he was a bit lost as he normally drives a different route. I complained to translink but they said they could not figure out which driver it was and the case was closed.
Rating: +13
Ray I
What a bunch of BS! Read this from Translink's web page:

A universal bus pass that allows for unlimited travel on your conventional transit system is available to seniors and persons with a disability on a restricted income.

To qualify for the BC Bus Pass Program, you must be receiving any of the following:

Old Age Pension and Federal Guaranteed Income Supplement or Federal Spouse's Allowance;
Spouses Allowance to Old Age Security;
Over 65 years: would qualify for OAS and GIS except having less than 10 years residency in Canada;
BC Employment and Assistance (60 years and older); or
BC Employment and Assistance PWD Disability Assistance (18 to 64 years).

For more information, contact:
BC Bus Pass Program, Ministry of Social Development
PO Box 9950, Station Provincial Government Victoria, BC V8W 9R3
Toll-free: 1-866-866-0800 (Choose option 4, then option 3)
Rating: +5
transit has NO money, I completely sympathize with people who can't afford it. but usually the person who isn't paying, is the person holding an iphone5 and a cup of starbucks coffee.

IT IS NOT ETHICAL TO RIDE TRANSIT WITHOUT PAYING. the public has to understand that, "the bus is going that way, why can't little 130 pound me get on for free?" . not paying this is the same as walking into a grocery store grabbing two candy bars and leaving.

this is the root of the issue.

they need to put up adds to make the people understand not paying IS stealing.

also maybe transit can give discounts to people in actual poverty.

Rating: -11


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