Transfer cheats or transfer windows? BC Transit and transfers

Transfer cheats or transfer windows? BC Transit and transfers

The BC Transit CEO is claiming that an additional $600,000 is being seen in revenue without increasing ridership due to a crackdown on “cheating”

“It’s pretty amazing — the level of fare evasion that was going on out there,” said Manuel Achadinha, president and chief executive of B.C. Transit.

Pretty incendiary. BC Transit’s financials from the September 13th Victoria Regional Transit Commission meeting reveal a small increase in ridership, and an increase in revenue (over plan) from passengers and advertising of $685K, YTD.

When BC Transit in Victoria changed its transfer system recently, it did three things:

  1. Reduced its transfer window from 90 to 60 minutes, a 33% reduction. Now, I don’t know how much this is being enforced. I use a monthly pass, but anecdotal observation of bus transfer lengths indicates that it is enforced with varying levels of strictness (people watching is fun on the bus!).
  2. Made transfers one way, so people running short errands can no longer use a transfer on the return.
  3. Did away with the “letter of the day” system, and prevented people from banking transfers from previous days and times.

Now, the only cheats are the ones who gamed the letter of the day, not the ones who were using the transfer for short errands, who now pay double what they paid, or those stopping en-route to home and running a small errand in their 90 minute time window, now 60 minutes.

It’s obviously easy to parade cases of cheating, creating beautiful anecdata.

“I actually had a guy who had a glass case who had everything [all the transfers] alphabetical”

Right, the power of ONE! While a numerical estimate of $200,000 was provided for the cheating, it’s hard to tell what this was based on. It is disturbing that the Times Colonist didn’t bother questioning BC Transit on the methodology used, or the provenance of the numbers. It seems as likely to me that a shortening of the transfer window, and banning two way travel with a transfer could have increased the revenue per passenger from $1.47 to $1.52, a 3.4% increase. But that goes against BC Transit’s story.

I am sympathetic of BC Transit’s need to raise more revenue without bothering the car driving and property owning public with property tax increases. As a monthly pass buyer and property tax payer, I contribute in many ways! I suspect they noticed the reuse of transfers and saw it as an opportunity to raise revenue by tacking on unrelated transfer restrictions. We should be exploring more mobility tied solutions such as linking the carbon tax with transit funding, as these University of Victoria students are advocating. This is on the head of BC’s provincial government, which believes more in the optics of having a carbon tax in place and wowing environmentalists worldwide, rather than designing a system that works well.  Car drivers, think of it as paying a modest (really modest) toll to get people off the road so you can drive in peace! I would do it!

Photo courtesy Stephen Rees Flickr Photostream used under a Creative Commons Licence. Do read his blog as well, he always has insight to add to BC’s transit options.