In 2013, TransLink bus drivers turned a blind eye to a lot of fare dodgers—nearly three million, according to documents released today (January 6) by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF).
Whenever someone walks onto a TransLink bus without paying a fare, the driver is supposed to press a “fare not paid” button. According to statistics obtained by CTF through freedom of information legislation, the exact number of times those buttons were hit in 2013 was 2,762,363.
TransLink has long instructed its drivers to let fare evaders board without objection out of concern for employees’ safety.
If every one of those riders had been caught an issued a $173 ticket for fare evasion (admittedly never likely to happen), TransLink could have taken in an extra $477.9 million. If drivers had collected standard $2.75 fares on all those rides (only slightly less far-fetched), the revenue would have totalled $7.6 million.
TransLink's expenditures for 2013 amounted to $1.41 billion, according to the organization’s annual report for that year.
The Taxpayers Federation of B.C. is using these figures to bolster its new “No TransLink Tax” campaign. They are arguing that a 0.5 percent increase in the provincial sales tax is not needed when TransLink could instead be spending existing funds more efficiently.
“TransLink executives have turned a blind eye to millions of fare cheats, causing unnecessary financial grief for honest riders and taxpayers,” said CTF B.C. Director Jordan Bateman quoted in a release.
Looking at the raw FOI data broken down by bus route, I was more interested in where exactly those 2.76 million fares were evaded.
With 262,838, the top spot goes to the Number 20: Victoria / Downtown. Its drivers pressed those buttons an average of 720 times every single day.
Ranking second with 178,842 no-pays was the Number 16: 29th Avenue Station / Arbutus. That’s 490 per day.
Coming in third is the Number 8: Fraser / Downtown. Its drivers registered 148,264 fares not paid or 406 a day.
Fourth was the Number 3: Main / Downtown with 141,378 or 387 per day.
And rounding out the top five was the Number 14: Hastings / UBC. It recorded 129,306 fares not paid, or an average of 354 a day.
Regular transit riders have probably noticed that three of those buses spend a considerable amount of time along East Hastings Street and that all five of them traverse the Downtown Eastside.
The routes with the lowest numbers of fare dodgers were the Number 242: Upper Lonsdale / Vancouver, the Number C18: West Mall / UBC Loop, and the Number 227: Lynn Valley Centre / Phibbs Exchange. Those bus’s drivers counted 94, 32, and just 16 no pays, respectively.
Addressing what’s likely to be the first question asked in the comments section, the 99 B-Line (Commercial-Broadway / UBC) ranked somewhere on the lower end of the middle. In 2013, its drivers pressed their “fare not paid” buttons 24,987 times, or an average of 68 times per day.
You can download the complete list here.