Transit fare cheats still slow to pay fines
Most transit fare cheaters busted by police still aren't paying their $173 fines to TransLink despite new powers to punish them that took effect last fall.
TransLink says about 20 per cent of the 16,000 fare evaders caught and ticketed between Sept. 4 and the end of February have now paid their fines.
That's up a bit from the roughly 16 per cent payment rate in past years when TransLink had no way to enforce payment.
The provincial government last spring passed Bill 51, which makes ICBC block auto insurance and driver's licence renewals for fare evaders who don't pay fines, and lets TransLink dispatch bill collectors as well.
TransLink spokesman Derek Zabel said the payment rate may climb higher because non-paying riders have 90 days to pay and those fined in December, January or February would still have had time when the end-of-February statistics were compiled.
"Bill 51 needs to be in place for more than a year for us to start to see any sort of trends and get a good understanding of what's happening out there," Zabel said.
He said 35 per cent of the fines issued have been sent to a collections agency, while TransLink has asked ICBC to bar renewals for 583 others so far.
Fare evasion fines go up $40 if they're not paid within six months and they go up $100 if unpaid after a year.
Transit Police conducted 1.15 million fare checks from September to the end of February – 200,000 more than the same period of the previous year – but 2,000 fewer tickets were issued.
Zabel said that suggests more passengers are now paying their fares instead of risking a ticket and fare evasion rates may be dropping.
"It shows you that Bill 51 is working, the message is getting out there," he said.
"It was designed to get people to pay their fare. We don't want to be out there writing millions of tickets and collecting millions of dollars in fine revenue."
TransLink now gets paid fines, which used to be collected by the province.
TransLink will introduce its new Compass smart card later this year as fare gates being installed are activated.
That will also reduce the scope for fare evasion, according to Zabel.
Regular riders won't have to go to a store to buy their monthly fare cards or FareSaver tickets either.
Instead they can add more cash to their Compass card at any time, or program it to automatically load more money on when the cash remaining gets below a certain level.
Zabel said someone who loses a registered Compass card won't be out the cost of their monthly pass, as is the case now. The old card will be deactivated so nobody who finds it can use it and the remaining credit will be transferred to the replacement card.