TransLink Can Actually Do Math

I just had to come back to this Georgia Straight piece on “Best Proof That TransLink Can’t Do Math

TransLink is spending $171 million to install fare gates at all SkyTrain stations, as well as creating a new fare-card system. The company claims that these “improvements” will reduce fare evasion to the tune of $7 million per year—or $10 million, depending on who you talk to. So, let’s do some math. If we take the absolute best-case savings scenario of $10 million per year, that $171-million system will pay for itself in just over 17 years. However, once you factor in $15 million in annual maintenance costs, by our math, the system will pay for itself approximately… never.

Why am I coming back to it? Because it blames TransLink for a decision they did not ultimately have a lot of control over.  Again, TransLink is just losing the PR battle for even decisions that they didn’t make.  It’s also an example of how short term our memories are in terms of any political.

An article in the Vancouver Sun dated November 9, 2007 and titled “SkyTrain fare gates earlier dismissed as too costly.”  The article actually shows that TransLink CAN actually do math.

Putting fare gates on SkyTrain and the Canada Line would cost more than $30 million a year to install and operate and reduce fare evasion by less than $3 million, a report prepared by TransLink’s staff predicted just two years ago.

Yep, that’s right. TransLink said back in 2005 that $30 million in fare gates would only reduce fare evasion by $3 million.  Proper math.

On Thursday, Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon announced plans to install fare gates in a bid to reduce fare evasion and improve public safety.

Note very well who the actual decision maker in this whole scheme was.  It was then Minister of Transportation, Kevin Falcon.  The same Kevin Falcon who was the champion of the Gateway/Port Mann Project.  Kevin Falcon issued an edict to install fare gates.  The edict went directly against TransLink’s reports and against many TransLink Board Members at the time.

Vancouver city Coun. Peter Ladner, a TransLink board member, said Friday he was not sure why gates are a better idea now than they were two years ago.

“I’m quite puzzled by this decision and I’m looking forward to hearing the justification for it,” he said.

He noted TransLink has already invested millions of dollars in hiring SkyTrain police to reduce fare evasion.

“I’d like to see … whether we can achieve the same goal with a better use of their resources rather than jumping into a system we’ve previously decided didn’t make economic sense,” he said.

George Puil, who was chairman of TransLink from 1998 to 2003, said the board looked at fare gates twice during his tenure and was convinced both times that they cost more than they were worth.

“I think the money could be used elsewhere,” he said. “You could use it to have more police … around SkyTrain stations.”

So by my estimation and reading of the article, TransLink can do math.  However, I may have to question Kevin Falcon’s math.  Didn’t Falcon go on to be the Minister of Finance and Minister of Health?  So I don’t think the fare gates will serve to reduce fare evasion.  Will the fare gates deter crime like Falcon suggested in 2007?  I think Metros across the world have plenty of pickpockets riding the rails.  You can come up with your own answers to those questions.

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