Nearly a year ago, I was able to join Transit Security on one of their targeted fare blitzes. It was an eye-opening experience where I learned that many riders on our buses make their best effort to pay for the appropriate transit fares, while a much smaller number will go to great lengths to evade paying fares.
Between the time that I wrote that post and now, I’ve kept tabs on Transit Security and had the chance to chat with the odd one in my travels between TransLink properties and on the system. A recurring theme that has come up during these encounters is that it would be great if Transit Security could actually write fare infraction tickets. Many of the Transit Security members I spoke with said that it was frustrating to not have the power to issues fines and that some regular fare evaders knew they were unable to do so.
Last fall, TransLink was given new powers to issue and collect fare infraction tickets. Those new powers extended to Transit Security.
I’ve wanted to follow up with Transit Security to find out what if anything has changed now that they can issue fare infraction tickets. When some new figures were passed onto me regarding fare checks and fare infraction tickets issued by Transit Police and Transit Security, I knew I wanted to follow up with Transit Security. Here are the figures:
- From when the legislation went into effect in September to the end of 2012, we conducted more than 725,000 fare checks and issued just under 11,000 fare infraction tickets.
- For the same period in 2011, we conducted fewer checks (almost 550,000) but issued more violation tickets (more than 12,000).
Since these new powers have been in place, Transit Police and Transit Security have been stepping up fare inspections. Despite these increases in checks, the number of fare infraction tickets is down. This suggests that our riders are getting the message that fare evasion is stealing and that they will be punished if caught without the proper fare while using the system.
What I wanted to know is, after so many years, what is like for Transit Security to now be able to issue these tickets? Do riders know about the fines and that Transit Security can issue them? These were my big two questions. So, I called up Transit Security and found out where they were so I could ask them these questions and more. Here’s what Bobby, Security Operations Coordinator with Transit Security told me:
1. Before these new powers came into place last fall, what was the process involved in having someone served with a fare infraction ticket once you or one of your colleagues discovered they were fare evading?
Before Transit Security was given the new powers of writing fare infraction tickets, all Transit Security members could do was ask the fare evading passenger to either go buy a ticket or leave the property. If the passenger became unruly, Transit Security has the right to refuse and ban the passenger to ride the bus system for 24 hours. Now with these new powers, Transit Security has the ability to issue an infraction ticket for a total of $173.00, and refuse or ban the passenger for 24 hours for unruly behavior. Not all fare evaders are given infraction tickets. Transit Security members always use their discretion in these situations. They have a choice to issue an infraction ticket or give the individual a warning.
2. Now that you and your colleagues have these new powers, what’s the process of administering a fare infraction ticket?
Transit Security members in conjunction with Transit Police meet and check fares on the transit system. Transit Security members ask the passenger without valid fare the reason for not having a valid fare. Depending on the answer provided, the security member uses their discretion to issue an infraction ticket or give that person a verbal warning. Some form of picture ID is requested, a drivers license or BC ID or social insurance card usually, and with the information provided, an infraction ticket is issued. If a passenger cannot or will not provide ID to Transit Security, we then work with Transit Police to complete the infraction ticket. However, Transit Security can issue an infraction ticket without the involvement of Transit Police.
3. Have you noticed any changes with transit riders since you and your colleagues have been given these new powers?
So far we’ve noticed that a lot of passengers have been paying for their fares. They never know when and where they will be checked for their proof of payment on the transit system. The penalty for fare evasion is $173.00. That’s a lot of money for a lot of people; so buying your fare while travelling on the transit system is a lot cheaper than a fine. What our members have seen is that a lot of passengers are carrying some form of fares while on the system, monthly cards or Day Passes or FareSavers or they pay cash on the bus or buy tickets at the ticket machines before getting on the SeaBus or SkyTrain. Confrontation has been low and the riding public seems to encourage the fare checks.
4. What’s your biggest daily challenge when it comes to people evading fares? Has this challenge changed since you and your colleagues were been given these powers to enforce fare payment?
The biggest challenge was that we didn’t have many options before. Transit Security members could only ask the fare evader to buy a fare or leave the bus. Now the members can issue an infraction ticket. The majority of the passengers are very happy to see Transit Security on board a bus or SeaBus checking fares. Transit Security members are getting positive feedback from the public and the operators regarding the ability to issue Infraction ticket. The support we receive from Transit Security management makes the day-to-day fare enforcement much easier.
These latest fare check and fare infraction ticket numbers (above) are encouraging. However, fare evasion is something TransLink takes seriously and will continue to be vigilant to combat. As always, we’ll try our best to answer any questions you have about fare evasion as well as continue to post about the subject.