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Minister will boost TransLink's powers to pursue fines from fare evaders

Blair Lekstrom is seen in this January 17, 2009 file photo in Victoria.

Darryl Dyck/ The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck/ The Canadian Press

Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom says he will give TransLink the power to force fare evaders to pay millions in fines that go uncollected each year.

"I've always believed if you are going to have a law, enforce the law. What we have here is the ability to issue tickets, and without the ability to enforce the tickets," Mr. Lekstrom told reporters in Victoria.

TransLink's transit police issued 64,069 tickets from Jan. 1 of 2011 to March 1 of this year – but only about one in 10 are paid, according to statistics released by the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. The 7,540 tickets that were paid raised $1.3-million, but that leaves about $7.7-million in uncollected fines, according to ICBC.

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Under the current system, TransLink issues tickets but ICBC collects them. However, the insurance agency has no way to compel fare evaders to pay, other than by sending their names to a collection agency after a year.

Mr. Lekstrom said the existing system "doesn't make a great deal of sense." Although the law is a dozen years old, he said it's the first time it's been brought to his attention. He said he would draft legislation "if that's what it takes. ... I'm going to fix it."

The minister is not alone – even the head of TransLink is fuzzy on how ticket collections work.

"TransLink's responsibility is for writing the tickets only, the collection of the tickets is the responsibility of the provincial government," said TransLink CEO Doug Kelsey. "Once the ticket gets written I'm not sure where it goes."

About 11,000 tickets were cancelled for various reasons, but at a rate of $173 for each fare-related offence, the remaining 53,268 convictions should net the province about $9.2-million.

The money from any fines paid does not go to TransLink, Mr. Kelsey said.

An internal fare evasion audit conducted in 2007 recommended that TransLink management "strengthen its fare enforcement by pursuing ways to link violation tickets with other government functions" such as renewal of a driver's licence.

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The audit said such steps would have a big impact on fare evasion.

Mr. Kelsey said he was aware of the recommendations, but meetings with the provincial government have not led to any changes.

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