Fare dodgers will face tougher penalties next week when TransLink's new fare enforcement procedures kick in.
On Tuesday, the transportation authority will be granted a number of new mechanisms with which to penalize fare evaders, such as employing collection agencies to go after those with outstanding fines.
A partnership with the Insurance Corp. of B.C. means the licensing authority can also refuse to issue or renew a driver's licence or vehicle insurance until fines are paid.
The amendments to the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Act are the result of a new bylaw introduced by the province in May. The legislation also allows Transit Security, along with Transit Police, to issue fare infraction tickets.
"The new regulation is critical to reducing theft," TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis said in a statement. "The provincial government has given us an important tool to safeguard a significant source of revenue."
Currently, TransLink can issue tickets but has no power to enforce payment. The province collects fare evasion fines through ICBC, but the Crown corporation had no legal authority to force people to pay – until Tuesday.
The fine for not having valid proof of payment in a fare-paid zone will remain $173, but the number climbs to $213 after six months and $273 after a year. Those who receive a ticket will be able to pay the fine, dispute the ticket or appeal a decision on a new web page launching Tuesday, translink.ca/fareinfraction.
TransLink chief operating officer Doug Kelsey called the mechanisms "carrots and sticks" to ensure riders pay.
"The vast majority do pay their fares," he said. "This is really targeted [to] help shape behaviour on the system so that everybody pays. The people who pay should not be subsidizing the small group who don't pay."
The enaction of the bylaw comes three weeks after the first fare gate was installed at a SkyTrain station in Metro Vancouver. At completion, there will be 245 fare gates across the SkyTrain system, including 151 wider, accessible gates for wheelchairs, strollers and luggage. Users will tap in and out at stations and fares will be automatically deducted from prepaid cards, similar to Hong Kong's Octopus card or London's Oyster card.
Mr. Kelsey estimates the gates will save TransLink between $7- and $10-million a year in fare evasion within a few years of operation.
In 2005, TransLink's board overwhelmingly rejected fare gates after a staff report found the cost of installation and yearly operations would be far more than the amount lost to fare evasion. Increased ridership, a changing system and the ability to gather precise data from the fare gates, however, brought the idea back to the table, spokesman Drew Snider said earlier this year.