Delta’s mayor showed her frustration with TransLink Monday evening over their recent decision to invalidate transfers from buses when connecting with SkyTrain terminals.
Her comments were made following a letter submitted by North Delta resident James Kerr who said customers who pay a cash fare on a bus will have to pay a second fare to continue on the SkyTrain stations at Scott Road in Surrey or Bridgeport in Richmond.
“Obviously, TransLink prefers that we all have pre-paid cards as it will put revenue in their hands before providing any service,” wrote Kerr. “It is not easier for the occasional rider, low-income people, visitors and anyone who doesn’t want to have to go buy a pre-loaded card.”
Kerr’s letter went on to state public transit is supposed to encourage ridership and not limit access, suggesting many passengers are going to reach the SkyTrain and find themselves holding a valueless transfer.
Under TransLink’s new Compass Card system riders will be able to use pre-paid cards to transfer from buses to SkyTrains, but not with paper transfers acquired from cash fares.
“That is the worst service I have ever heard of,” said Mayor Lois Jackson. “If you have a person that just decides to take a little trip somewhere you have go and buy a full-fledged pass.”
The Compass Cards will be rolled out soon as part of TransLink’s $170 million installation of fare gates at all of its SkyTrain terminals to curtail users from riding for free. The transportation company has estimated it may be losing $7 million each year due to fare evasion.
The $6 Compass Cards will soon be available in the form of Adult, Concession, and Compass Tickets for casual users at all SeaBus, West Coast Express, and SkyTrain station vending machines, as well as online or by phone. The cards will work much like a gift card, requiring the user to load enough money for their transportation needs.
Delta’s director of engineering Steven Lan said TransLink looked into converting bus fare boxes to issue passes that would access the new fare gates at SkyTrains, but it would be too costly at $25 million. That will leave many cash-paying customers forced to pay again at the SkyTrain.
“What they’ve indicated is that based on their analysis that would only impact 6,000 customers per day out of 1.2 million daily riders,” said Lan.
Coun. Bruce McDonald said he was outraged when he first heard about the new system but has since learned the Compass Cards are modelled after the same systems used in England and California.
“This issue is for people who get on the bus and drop five quarters and ask for a transfer but those transfers are not going to be used anymore,” he said.
When London introduced their Oyster Cards they found 30 per cent were using cash fares, a number which dropped to one per cent afterward, added McDonald.
“I can understand, and I’ve spoken many times here about frustration with TransLink, but I think in this case this is likely going to be an improvement.”
But Jackson said Delta residents need more information about the new passes and was not convinced they are a better solution for everybody.
“There are circumstances when one person wants to take a bus and a SkyTrain into Vancouver and how does he do that… without costing us much more than they’re already charging us out here for access,” she said, adding Compass Cards seem useful for commuters and not casual users.
Jackson has expressed frustration with TransLink several times in the past, pointing out that Delta residents pay an estimated $39.4 million annually to the transportation company and receive poor service in return.
In July council resolved to write a letter to TransLink asking them to provide Delta with the direct cost of services provided south of the Fraser River.