Why would you vary fares by type of service?

Why would you choose to vary fares by service type? Why not?
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  • Buses, regardless if they are local, express, or bus rapid transit (BRT; i.e. B Line), are already the slowest mode of public transit and any tap out requirements would slow down exiting times. It should be either remain flat rate like the current bus fare structure or a variable rate based on where rider boards a bus and paid fare (similar to select bus routes operated by KMB, NFWB, Citybus, etc. in Hong Kong; e.g. KMB Route 270A: http://www.kmb.hk/northdistrictbusnetwork/images/route/Route-270A.jpg ; still no tap out required).

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  • According to your 2015 Annual Report, the operating cost per capacity-kilometre of Translink's bus service is four times higher that the operating cost of the Expo and Millennium Lines (0.119 $/capacity-kilometre for bus vs 0.029 for Expo/Millennium lines). So I don't understand how making fares higher on Skytrain than on busses is even being contemplated. Wouldn't doing that just encourage people to use the more-expensive-to-operate bus service and increase Translink's operating costs?

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  • Greg Golds 

    I totally agree. Proposing to charge more for more efficient services, thereby incentivizing less efficient methods seems absolutely ludicrous. As part of the fare review, Translink should consider what options encourage more efficiencies for Translink, as well, since this would enable the money saved by these efficiencies to be re-invested for better service.

     

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  • Actually, having fares differ for all service types is ridiculous. This encourages people who have a tight budget to take the local bus service over the express bus service, and will create ridiculous overcrowding on the local bus service, meanwhile the express service has practically no one on it. And also, for those that take transit for commute time benefits, if they feel that it isn't worth paying extra for the express service, and don't feel like standing on a chronically overcrowded bus for an hour, they will go back to driving, which puts cars back on the road, which creates more Co2, and will create more traffic jams, which is bad for everyone, buses and cars. 

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  • I agree with different fares for different type of service is crazy.  Make it all one flat rate.

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  • Just substitute "Health Care" for "Fare Review". Canadians by and large welcome universality and not a system where the wealthy can "buy" a premium service.  People worry that investment would be diverted to premium services.  Hong Kong, I believe, charges extra for service operated with buses with a/c. Would you go that far? 

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  • There should not be a different charge for different service types. What about people who live Vancouver that can't afford the "premium services"?  Translink needs to take care of people with low income not just "wealthy people"

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  • Why am I being charged while waiting for the next bus after disembarking the previous one? I should only be charged for the time I'm actually using the service, not the time that I'm standing on the street waiting for the bus. There are times that I have to wait 15 mins or more. I'm not receiving a service during that time period, yet I'm paying for it. Translink now has the technology to fix this with it's compass card. I've paid for 1.5 hrs of service, but I am not receiving that.

    Also, why are there people that don't pay when the use the bus? They get on the bus, tell some cockamamie story to the driver and proceed to ride for free. The drivers are instructed not to tell them to get off, for fear of reprisal. Why does the bus move at all after these people get on. The rest of us are paying, so should they. Or should we all come up with a story to ride for free?

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  • Ron Belhomme 

    A time based fare that only charges for the amount of time you are on transit is possible, but it brings in another set of large issues:

    - What happens when there is really bad traffic and a bus goes much slower at 5pm than at noon? You pay "more" for the same trip based on time of day, if there is an accident slowing or blocking traffic, there is the same issue as well.

    - Someone taking a B-line would get better value for the money than someone who has to take a winding local bus. 

    I believe the idea with the current 90 minute window is to allow for the completion of a single trip, therefore making it so that you are paying for a trip, whether it is 2 km or 20 km. This time frame could be adjusted based on our input in the next phase (Phase 3).

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  • Great to see such a wealth of thoughtful discussion happening here. Indeed compass opens up a range of possibilities, but there is even more to think about as a result! Thank you Joel for outlining some of the considerations associated with revisiting the transfer windows. You're right, that this will be something we will dive into deeper in Phase 3.

    Ron Belhomme
    Although I am keen to keep our discussion here focused on the future fare system, I want to briefly address your question about fare evasion. Here is more information on TransLink's approach to fare enforcement. That page includes information on how you can report non-emergency crime. You can also always give us feedback here.

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  • I'm afraid that this discussion is bedevilled by a lack of reliable data. I support the notion that more expensive-to-operate services should attract a higher rate for riders, but Translink simply doesn't provide the data necessary to evaluate this properly. I do not accept, for example, the suggestion that B-lines and other express services are significantly more expensive to operate than ordinary bus service (and more expensive on what basis? per passenger trip? per hour of operation? per passenger-km?) Even if this is the case, we need to know what the variability is. It makes little sense to charge differential rates for a 10% difference in operating costs, but if one service is twice as expensive to operate, then the case for differential rates is much stronger.

    We also need to distinguish between capital costs and operating costs. While capital costs should have some significance to fare rates, capital costs also represent a strategic investment that has already occurred. In terms of maximizing the efficiency of the system as it now exists, we need to ignore those sunk costs. If we priced the Canada Line to reflect the capital costs incurred, the Canada Line would be under-utilized and the buses would be over-capacity, even though I have little doubt the Canada Line costs less to operate than the bus lines.

    There is even confusion in the numbers we do have - for instance, the 2015 Annual Report makes the claim that the per-capacity km cost of the Canada Line is nearly four times that of the Expo and Millennium Lines. This is not plausible to anyone, and almost certainly represents a mixing of capital costs with operating costs. As far as I am aware, there is no publicly-available breakdown of the operating costs of the different Coast Mountain services- HandyDart, SeaBus, B-Lines, ordinary Bus service, etcetera.

    Translink has long made it exceedingly difficult for the public to evaluate their strategic decisions by concealing the relevant financial data. This insulates them from public criticism, but makes exercises in public consultation much less valuable than they could be. We need the data, preferably in a form that is comprehensible. 

     

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  • Matthew Cowper 

    I do not accept, for example, the suggestion that B-lines and other express services are significantly more expensive to operate than ordinary bus service (and more expensive on what basis? per passenger trip? per hour of operation? per passenger-km?) Even if this is the case, we need to know what the variability is. It makes little sense to charge differential rates for a 10% difference in operating costs, but if one service is twice as expensive to operate, then the case for differential rates is much stronger.

    More frequent services are more expensive (as far as total cost) due to the fact that they use more buses and drivers. I am under the assumption that this cost to operate refers to the  "cost per boarded passenger" which Translink made available in the 2015 Transit Service Performance Review. The more frequent routes are on the lower end for the "cost per boarded passenger".

    We also need to distinguish between capital costs and operating costs. While capital costs should have some significance to fare rates, capital costs also represent a strategic investment that has already occurred. In terms of maximizing the efficiency of the system as it now exists, we need to ignore those sunk costs. If we priced the Canada Line to reflect the capital costs incurred, the Canada Line would be under-utilized and the buses would be over-capacity, even though I have little doubt the Canada Line costs less to operate than the bus lines.

    The Canada line's cost per boarded passenger (c/bp) was $2.68 in 2015 (here is all 2015 TSPR documents). This is a good bit higher than many of the frequent bus lines that operate well below $2/bp. The 99 is the lowest at $.62/bp. I think the main reason for the Canada line being higher is due to the (horrible in my opinion) P3 agreement in place where the Canada line isn't actually operated by Translink. While the 2015 TSPR does not have specific c/bp for Expo and Millennium lines (due to Compass not being fully activated in 2015), the "cost per capacity km" is significantly lower at $.03 vs $.11 for Canada line. If this translates into c/bp, then the Expo and Millennium lines would be ~$.73/bp, the second lowest c/bp in the system after the 99 (Note that if we were looking at just the Expo line, it would likely be even cheaper due to the much higher ridership than the Millennium line).

    There is even confusion in the numbers we do have - for instance, the 2015 Annual Report makes the claim that the per-capacity km cost of the Canada Line is nearly four times that of the Expo and Millennium Lines. This is not plausible to anyone, and almost certainly represents a mixing of capital costs with operating costs. As far as I am aware, there is no publicly-available breakdown of the operating costs of the different Coast Mountain services- HandyDart, SeaBus, B-Lines, ordinary Bus service, etcetera.

    See the 2015 Transit Service Performance Review documents I linked above. As for the Canada line, re-iterating what I wrote above, the higher cost is due to the Concessionaire agreement in place because of the P3 agreement when the Canada line was built. This is Translink's actual cost, but the operating costs for the Concessionaire are likely a good bit lower.

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  • Joel Gibbs 

    Joel, you really ought to be paid for moderating these boards - you're doing an outstanding job, thank you.

    I had not found the Performance Review numbers, and they are helpful. I do stand by my criticism of Translink inasmuch as they are buried in pdfs when they are directly relevant to this discussion, and are not being brought to the attention of those being asked to comment on this topic. Another number we don't have is cost per passenger-km. There is a greater value to services that move riders greater distances, but we don't have the data to take that into account.

    What is apparent from the numbers you point out is that there isn't an operating-cost justification to imposing fare premiums for express bus services or for Skytrain (and almost certainly neither for the Canada Line). If part of the deal in building these systems had been a fare premium for their use to reflect the capital cost, then a fare premium would make sense. But that was never the deal presented to the public, nor was it the basis on which the decision to build these routes was made. There is now no justification for an increased cost for these services. I should note that the zone-system was part of the original fare structure for the rail lines, and should remain.

    With respect to the P3 agreement on the Canada Line, I'm not eager to criticize the existence of the P3 agreement - there are plenty of examples of publicly-administered projects that flounder through mismanagement, and P3s generally improve the likelihood of on-time delivery of major infrastructure projects and reduce the incidence of cost overruns. Whether this specific P3 was a good deal I cannot comment on. However, ongoing P3 payments do not mirror operating costs - they are a sunk cost, contractually agreed to, and typically reflect a significant capital component (which is a dumb thing to do). So we really should throw that number out completely as irrelevant. The P3 contract might specify what the cost of marginal capacity is to Translink, and that would be relevant, but we don't have that number.

     

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  • Matthew Cowper 

    What is apparent from the numbers you point out is that there isn't an operating-cost justification to imposing fare premiums for express bus services or for Skytrain (and almost certainly neither for the Canada Line).

    I would agree that is makes no sense to charge more for more express/higher frequency lines, especially when those are the most efficient to operate. As you say, there may be a larger amount of initial capital needed, but the higher ridership usually more than covers that over time.

    If part of the deal in building these systems had been a fare premium for their use to reflect the capital cost, then a fare premium would make sense.

    That's fair, and is the reason why the YVR add-fare exists. That was part of the deal to build the extension to the airport and the add-fare was intentioned to pay for that portion of the Canada line. I'm not particularly fond of such methods in general as  if they are applied on a large-scale, it can greatly depress ridership bringing in less revenue than keeping the fares similar to the rest of the system.

    However, ongoing P3 payments do not mirror operating costs - they are a sunk cost, contractually agreed to, and typically reflect a significant capital component (which is a dumb thing to do). So we really should throw that number out completely as irrelevant. The P3 contract might specify what the cost of marginal capacity is to Translink, and that would be relevant, but we don't have that number.

    The P3 payments do not mirror the direct operating costs per se, but they are what Translink does have to pay to have it running. I agree with your premise in the context you are using it, but technically at this point, those payments are the "operating cost" for Translink.

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  • Joel Gibbs Could the c/bp for the  Canada Line be higher simply because each train only has 2 cars vs. the Expo and Millenium lines that have 4 cars per train? 

    I agree that there is a lack of clarity into the  numbers from Translink, and I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that there are many bureaucratic organizations involved and they do not all get along, nor do they appear to have a clear line of authority governing the relationships between them.  For the Canada Line, whenever any decision has to be made, Translink, Protrans, and In-transit BC all have to get together and hash things out.  You would think Translink would be able to assert their authority, but that's not always the case.

    So even with a fare review and new fare structure, for me the biggest test for Translink will be the implementation and communication to riders how this all works. 

     

     

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  • Mimi 

    I think that is unlikely as the Canada line cars are larger and hold more passengers than the other Skytrain cars, thereby giving a higher capacity per car (relative to Mark I or Mark II cars). There is a minimal cost to actually operate more cars (or just run train-sets more frequently) when they are already available and the difference between longer cars with current service levels vs current size with higher frequency is tiny. The biggest thing would be how the operating cost is calculated, which I am asking for clarification on below, and ridership.

    For the Canada Line, whenever any decision has to be made, Translink, Protrans, and In-transit BC all have to get together and hash things out.  You would think Translink would be able to assert their authority, but that's not always the case.

    Decisions are governed by the Concessionaire agreement that is already in place. If a party wants to alter details of that agreement, the parties must amend the agreement and they would all have to accept the amendment.  For fares, I don't believe those are part of the agreement as I believe Tranlink's payment is separate from fares. Because of this, Translink is able to alter fare structure without amending the Concessionaire agreement.   Malcolm MacLean would you be able to verify or correct me on this?

     

    Malcolm MacLean

    Would we be able to get a clarification on the operating expenses and Cost per boarded passenger for the Canada line in the 2015 Translink Service Performance Review? Are those costs just what Translink pays the concessionaire, or are they calculated in a different manner?

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  • Ron Belhomme 

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  • Joel Gibbs 

    I don't have answers for these specific questions off-hand. Since the engagement period for Phase 2 is coming to a close, please send us an email at farereview@translink.ca and we can follow up with you once we are able to clarify.

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  • I read your comment about people getting on the bus and not paying fares.  As someone who has worked with people on low fixed incomes (social assistance, disability pension, pensions) and with low wage earners, transit fares are extremely expensive proportional to their incomes.  Yet they require public transit more than the rest of us as they don't have the ability to pay or possibly access (those with disabilities for example).  With the implementation of the fare gates, the poorer people are relegated to the slower transit systems such as buses.  While I am sure there are some people who don't pay who could afford to (and should!), people who ride for free due to no income or low income should not be penalized or stigmatized due to their level of poverty.  Maybe the next phase of the fare review will address the inequity of income and come up with a plan like so many of the cities around the world and in Canada.  In BC, we are playing catch up in this.  Please see the Calgary or King County USA fare policies to see what I mean.  

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  • Agree that tapping out on buses would slow down an already slow system and paralyze it.  That idea should be totally eliminated in this fare review.

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  • Karen O'Shannacery 

    Maybe the next phase of the fare review will address the inequity of income and come up with a plan like so many of the cities around the world and in Canada. 

    How to have fares varied by ability is slated to be part of the next phase, along with other details. I am interested to see some of the ideas that will arise around this.

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  • Joel Gibbs 

    Ability to pay is a huge issue and will need to have the provincial government at the table.  Will be interesting to participate in these discussions.

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