This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Compass system shows Translink has again lost its way

This week’s topic:

Should TransLink retrofit buses to prevent the “double transit fee”?

There’s nothing quite like waking up in the suburbs of Surrey and smelling the aroma of fresh steer manure that’s just been spread on the fields. Or is that the smell of TransLink’s regular bungling, inspiring the creation of my new Twitter hashtag: #faregatefollies? Forgive me the comparison, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to tell the difference between steer manure and public relations announcements from TransLink.

The latest debacle is the revelation that TransLink executives received four-to-five digit pay increases last year. It comes at an inopportune time, as TransLink tries to defend the costly fare gates and service cuts, all while claiming they need more funding. It’s hard to claim poverty and hand out hefty executive pay raises.

Many believe the cost of the fare gates in terms of installation, upkeep and maintenance will exceed the costs of fare evasion. Fare gates might never pay for themselves and their performance has yet to be tested with the demands of kids going back to school and people going back to work after the end of summer vacations.

Read Brent Stafford’s column

The Compass Card is a barrier to transit for anyone without a bank account, without regular computer access, without the ability to get to a location that loads cards, or for those who don’t have enough money to buy and load cards in advance. TransLink says 6,000 people pay cash daily, but would not provide me with documentation to support that when asked…

Read the rest of this weeks column, and leave your comments before you vote for who you think should win this weeks Duel at

*** Some additional details on the entire #faregatefollies story and a bit of history on how we ended up with them can be found at the following links:   Did Translink even have a business case for the faregates in the first place? A good read on this one.


And don’t forget to scroll down, or head to the home page to read the BC Ferries executive pay increases…. ouch.

24 thoughts on “This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Compass system shows Translink has again lost its way

    Have you additional info to report on that railway bridge in White Rock?
    It seems to me that the Provincial and Federal Govt.are dragging their feet again


  2. Fare gates – Both my wife and I identified that fare gates should have been installed when the individual stations were first constructed. One has to only review what and why other countries have done = all with fare gates. Plus, excuse me for being cynical, but didn’t the various Translink executives tour various other countries, all expenses paid to review their systems.


  3. Once again we have govt beaurocrats that have rarely, if ever, used the system they are trusted with operating.
    Cash for a bus ticket ! Now why didnt I think of that?
    Overfed, under worked, braying donkeys couldnt hold a candle to the buffoons that continue to rake in exorbitant salaries and bonuses and pensions for coming up with this dog of a system.
    Cant wait for school to start…………

    Eat the rich


  4. Translink says they did this because of results from a focus group. Now having been involved in one or two of those, I can tell you the questions and how the group is constituted and led can make a huge difference to the end results.

    But as long as we’re doing policy by focus group, here’s a few questions I’d love to see Translink try out:

    1) If a bus doesn’t show up, should Translink pay you?

    2) If a bus passes you up, should Translink pay you?

    3) If a bus or Skytrain breaks down while you’re on it, should Translink pay you?

    4) If you have to stand in a non rush-hour trip, should Translink pay you?

    5) If Translink charges peak hour fairs, should they provide peak hour service?

    But I’m not holding my breath waiting for it to happen.


  5. Laila…..

    Did you catch the part where, while defending the decision not to make things compatible, the Chief Operating Clown says……” I’m a taxpayer too “…….while taking his fat raise. Shameful.

    As for the HumpUs Card. Someone commented on the Straight site saying his mother, a bus driver, told him the testing is not going well. I asked a driver about this yesterday and she nodded her head up & and rolled her eyes. I’m going to hold off on the card at first and pay cash, as I can’t get this possible future headline out of my mind……..

    ” System-Wide Failure—-Card Balances Erased ”

    Anything is possible at TransFail.


    1. Yes, I’ve talked to a few people in the industry as well and there are reported fails in many areas. Like the faregates remaining open long enough for a few people to pass through without having tapped.

      Other issues I hear are likely to arise,is the overcrowding on many buses that will prevent people from tapping properly upon exiting. In addition,at many skytrain stations there are not nearly enough gates installed and there will definitely be a crowd and congestion come September.

      I really wish people who actually took the bus were in charge.I would suggest to those at Translink who are busy reading this morning, that they create a riders commission for input from real transit users in order to facilitate actual policy and procedure that works.


      1. Overcrowded or not, I think tapping out will always be an issue as most of the Drones around here think the bus ends at the back doors.

        So far as input goes…….A few years back I was discussing some kind of failure on the system with a driver and that I was going to file a complaint. His response went something like this—-“Don’t bother. It’ll probably go straight in the garbage can. We’re the front-line employees and they don’t even listen to us.”

        ( Enjoyed your piece on the #321 bus. Don’t ride much over there these days, but I remember how it was back in pre-SkyTrain days. Just replace the Homeys with guys in triple soled Daytons and AC/DC shirts calling everyone fags.)

        Keep up the good work!!!


  6. There are blinders on the initial question – “should Translink retrofit the buses…?”
    Supposedly that will cost $25mil.
    Why not retrofit the Skytrain stations with a mag ticket reader for those of us who pay cash on buses? Supposedly it’s 1/3 the cost.
    Far fewer skytrain stations than buses so it makes sense to retrofit the stations and not the buses!


  7. Translink’s AGM is in May. I will be attending. One of the questions I’ll be asking is How many times did the CEO CFO, etc. take transit last month. How many times did a member of their family take transit last month? Do you know anyone who makes less than $15,000 a year?


    1. Letter from a reader, via my contact page – a plethora of information!

      “Ms Yuile,
      I attended quite a few TransLink open houses through the years, in both Vancouver and Coquitlam (including a special one in our small building for the benefit of the board) and was amazed by the ignorance of most of the suits wearing staff.

      One time they showed videos of the famous Strasbourg tramway (LRT for North-Americans) but were unable to answer questions—for example “why aren’t they any cars in some of the pictures”. I knew, as I was born in Europe, and made a point of going to Strasbourg in 1995 to see that tram. I was already familiar with the car-free areas—365 days a year—that one finds not only all over Europe but also in Japan, China, South America, the Middle-East, Australia, New-Zealand…

      When I mentioned it, both the people that asked the question and the TransLink staff were incredulous…Why would any city have main shopping streets without cars? ..big crowds of shoppers, amongst other things… They had not even gone to Portland to see their tramways, didn’t know that in many cities transit companies own buildings around stations (shops, offices, even housing in some cases…). Their answer was that it was up to developers to build around stations…sure..and we will get the $$$ then? Not TransLink that is always scrounging for dimes..

      TransLink executives pay raises:
      The mayor of London is responsible for the Greater London transit system, under the under the close supervision of the Assembly for London (city council). The mayor chair the transit board, select board members, plan new lines, set the budget and the financing, set fares etc.etc.
      The mayor current salary is £143,911 per year (around $ 230 000)

      Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl total salary in 2011 was at just over $200,000. That is more than Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn or Washington State Governor… A 6% increase was planned for 2012.

      March 2013: TTC CEO (Andy Byford) salary is $294,366.92 plus more than $14,000 in taxable benefits.
      Compare all these salaries to the one ofTransLink CEO…who has a smaller system to play with…does he even uses transit?

      The Director of Washington State Ferries David Moseley earned US $144,768 in 2011. The BC Ferries CEO, Mike Corrigan, current salary is $563,000. Both ferries systems are close in size…

      The fare gates were forced on TransLink by the then Transportation minister Kevin Falcon, who discovered fare gates during a visit to London (UK).

      Obviously he had never seen/used Toronto and Montreal subways.

      Nor did he asked Transit for London officials about fare evasions.

      “Fare evasion costs Transport for London (TfL) almost £75m a year in public money. …Last year (2010) fare evasion cost TfL almost £75m in lost revenue, including around £40m lost on London’s buses and more than £20m on the Tube network…” dated 18 March 2011

      London’s tube has been equipped with turnstile then gates for a long time…and there are 500 fare inspectors..yet there are evaders, most of them on buses (no gates, drivers that know better than argue with a violent non-paying person.

      All systems with gates/ turnstiles lose money to evaders: Toronto, Montreal (loss for both around 20 million—anecdotal. No proof), Paris, Tokyo etc. In Paris they do random checks using the Paris police or special transit staff but the fines likely don’t even pay for time spent by the checkers (they block the whole width of a hallway station).

      In Tokyo, where passengers rush through gates in huge numbers they don’t bother checking. It would cost too much, would slow down the process and the system makes a profit.

      Towns with both tickets w/ magnetic stripe and a transit smart card:
      Canada: Montreal. Toronto uses tokens! their transfers don’t have a magnetic stripe to my knowledge.
      Japan: Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto (JR “Icoca” card used in these 3 towns and in all those in the region—population just over 20 million–and also in the Hiroshima region), Tokyo, Fukuoka…

      France: population figures (after the city name) are for the metropolitan area. MAY not be the very latest population figures.
      Paris (2.2 million in the historical Paris—the size of the city of Vancouver—12 millions in the Greater Paris region) uses single trip tickets and passes for 1 to several days that have a magnetic stripe, besides a Transit smart card. Lyon 2,118,132/ 4 subways (one automated), 4 tramways (LRT), urban buses, 16 lines of commuter trains..(like West Coast Express but faster) and many lines of commuter buses. Toulouse 1 232 398/ 2 Automated Light Rail Transit lines (ALRT), 1 train line, 1 tramway line (LRT), urban buses, plus 14 lines of commuter trains, a dozen commuter bus lines.
      Bordeaux 1,130 000 / 3 tramway lines (LRT), urban buses, 15 lines of commuter trains, 64 lines of commuter buses that charge Euros 2.50 a single trip, no matter how far—100 km plus is possible. Transfer to another bus is also possible. Note that Bordeaux is the capital of the Aquitaine region (population 3.2 million—nearly the same as B.C. but in a much smaller area).
      Strasbourg 885 000 / 5 tramway lines. Plus commuter trains and bus lines..
      When their tramway (LRT) was inaugurated in 1994 it started a worldwide transit revolution. An amazingly good looking tram with a huge windshield, big windows, wide doors, a low floor and several articulated sections that allowed it to take sharp curves.
      Rennes 520 000 / 1 ALRT line + one more in construction. Urban buses, commuter trains and buses.

      French ALRT Systems looks like SkyTrain but, like the Japanese ones, have rubber tires and platform screen walls to separate tracks from platforms for safety reasons. The first Japanese and French ARLT went into service in the early 1980s (Paris’ Metro has these screen walls on their heavy duty automated Metro lines). These ALRT are mostly used as the main rapid transit systems in towns with a metropolitan population around 1.2 million max. In bigger towns it is mostly used to link a small self-contained area to the major transit system. For example artificial islands in Kobe, Osaka, Tokyo.
      ALRT vehicules, including SkyTrain, have a passenger load similar to the big modern tramways (LRT). Seattle LRT looks very much like SkyTrain in the viaduct section near the SeaTac airport.

      Angers 394 000/ 1 tram line.
      Le Mans 150 000 / 1 tram line with a short branch.
      La Rochelle 150 000 / 24 lines of low floor articulated buses, shuttle boats in the harbour (powered by electricity), electric cars for hire, night time taxis that charge a relatively low fare.
      All these small towns have several lines of commuter trains and buses.
      All these towns have validators with a slot for tickets and a “target” for transit smart cards.
      In all French towns with a transit system that is more than a few buses, transit is the responsibility of a council made of mayors and councilors representing the towns of the metropolitan area. They plan and finance lines, buildings etc. set fares etc. Commuter trains and buses are the responsibility of the county and the region (the later owns the trains), in cooperation with the council of the major metropolitan area. The state finance a good portion of all transit budgets with a special transportation tax.

      Seattle has a similar system (elected state and municipal politicians in charge of transit).

      Paris and Berlin have a more complex structure due to their huge transit system, but there too elected politicians at the municipal and regional levels are in charge, with the cooperation of national or federal politicians.
      In France politicians take care of the planning and financing, BUT the actual daily operation of an urban transit system is done in most towns outside the Paris region by a private transit operator contracted for a limited time (usually 5 years, sometime 7 years). There are 3 major transit operators in France: Keolis (subsidiary of the national railways company), Transdev (partly owned by savings banks and a banking branch of the government) and RATP-Dev, a child of Paris Metro operator, RATP (government owned..and it makes a profit..). These 3 operators also operate transit systems in various countries around the world.. This means that small towns profit of the vast experience of these companies in every aspect.

      Reims (300 000) only use a multi-function card: Visa credit card + transit passes and tickets + electronic purse for small purchases.

      There are many more towns—in both France and other countries– with transit smart cards but I only mention some of the many I know. I should mention that in transit systems outside Paris Adult fares start at 24 or 26 in many towns…
      Low income families with several children under 18 pay very low fares when they travel together.
      Even ordinary adults travelling in a group can get big discounts.

      Berlin: no smart card ..(great transit system though..) but one interesting feature:
      Accompanying persons: One adult and up to three children aged from 6 to 14 years of age travel free of charge with a ticket or pass holder on Mondays to Fridays from 20:00 hrs as well as Saturdays and Sundays, and all day on public holidays. This ruling ends at 03:00 hrs on the next morning, as long as this is not a Saturday, Sunday or public holiday. Children under 6 years of age (a maximum of 3 children on ferries), prams/pushchairs and luggage as well as one dog, travel with the pass holder free of charge. A reduced tariff ticket is required for each additional dog. You will need a bicycle tariff ticket to travel with a bicycle. I feel tired just visualizing a mother trying to herd all these kids, a pram, suitcases, a dog or more, a bike…

      The major problem we have here is that there isn’t the transit culture one finds elsewhere, not just in Europe, Asia etc. but also in the eastern USA, Toronto, Montreal etc.”


      1. So, if my math is right, that is 7.2 mil. potentially wasted if they don’t find tenants. 1.8 shy of the cheaper card fix.

        I currently average one Howard Beale moment per day.


  8. Every efficient transit system I know of (Montreal, Hong Kong, Taipei, Kiaosiung, Japan) uses fairgates.

    I support them. They should have been installed decades ago.


    1. I agree with this point… they should have been installed decades ago.

      However… they were not… and now that they have installed them, the essentially cheaped out on the installation. Considering the money being spent elsewhere on Translink’s bad business decisions, the money to install transfer readers at skytrain stations could easily have been re-allocated. Unfortunately, the vast amount of waste happens in administration, where executives and managers who never take transit make decisions that don’t make sense for those who actually do… 🙂


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