City debates civility on transit

Post by Mike Klassen in


Gregor Robertson interviewed about his Skytrain fare evasion and decision to dispute it in court

The issue of civility on our public transit has become a hot issue this week, and it was even raised on Tuesday's civic affairs panel on the Bill Good Show. Where most of the discussion has been about an assault on a Coast Mountain bus driver over the weekend (something that has become far too commonplace), Province columnist Jon Ferry has a different take on the issue. Go hard after fare evaders, he says.

Not only has violence become more prevalent on transit, but a sense of entitlement exists among those who could otherwise afford to pay and simply don't, says Ferry's column. Our media monitoring staff at CityCaucus Tower know that despite the fact we barely pay them, we won't tolerate any scofflaws. Skip a fare and it's grounds for dismissal.

What if other employers were as strict as the management at CityCaucus Towers? Judging by Ferry's column, we'd have a lot of unemployed people.

The young scamps down on floor twenty-two dug up this interview with Vancouver's most infamous fare cheat, Mayor Gregor Robertson. The embarrassing revelation that Vision mayoral candidate Robertson had skipped out on paying the full fare on a Skytrain ride to Burnaby occurred during the 2008 election campaign. If not for the mysterious disappearance of an in-camera document on the Olympic Village project, it might have been enough of an issue to lose the election for Robertson.

Looking back at this clip, I'm reminded of what a great interviewer GlobalTV's Randene Neill is (she would shred Sam Sullivan during the 2007 CUPE strike), and why we regularly hear complaints from newsrooms that they can't get an interview with Bubble Boy Robertson. Gregor simply can't speak without having talking points in hand.

Translink bears some responsibility for not making fare evasion a bigger issue in the system. But it still doesn't excuse the rampant and costly abuse of our transit system by some riders.

What steps do you think we should take to defend against fare evasion?


Can you blame people for not paying their fares when their own mayor is a self-proclaimed transit cheat?

The zone system is strange to be sure. A rush hour trip from Patterson to Joyce (the next station on the Expo Line heading north) for example, is a two zone fare, yet you could travel from Waterfront to Joyce (way, way farther) for a single zone fare.

For intentional fare evaders, even with the $173 fine that's levied, some will no doubt do the math and realize that getting ticketed and paying the fine once a year is cheaper than the $25 extra per month (between a one zone and a two zone pass) and really turns into a good odds gamble compared to buying daily individual tickets. (You'd save enough to pay the fine in only 70 return trips, and even fewer trips if you can make the journey under the 90 minute transfer time limit).

Whatever the outcome of Robertson's situation, I hope it does spur some discussion regarding the current system. I think it could be improved.

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