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TransLink seeks 12.5-per-cent fare hike

Transit users will be paying more if a proposed fare hike by TransLink is approved. Cash fares would rise 10 per cent, while monthly passes or prepaid tickets would go up by slightly more. - File
Transit users will be paying more if a proposed fare hike by TransLink is approved. Cash fares would rise 10 per cent, while monthly passes or prepaid tickets would go up by slightly more.
— image credit: File

TransLink has applied to raise transit fares an average of 12.5 per cent in January 2013 and this time the planned increases are to hit all riders.

If approved, cash fares would rise 25 to 50 cents to between $2.75 for one zone and $5.50 for three zones.

A book of 10 pre-paid one-zone FareSaver tickets would rise $2.50 to $23.50, while a three-zone book would climb $5 to $47.

Monthly passes would cost $91 for one zone (up $10); $124 for or two-zones (up $14); or $170 for three zones (up $19.)

Concession fares would also go up.

The last across-the-board fare increase was in 2008, while a 2010 hike for monthly pass and FareSavers kept cash fares frozen.

The increases would generate an extra $48 million in 2013 to help fund transit expansion plans passed last year with the approval of Metro Vancouver mayors.

But TransLink Commissioner Martin Crilly, TransLink's independent regulator, has the power to veto the fare hike and is taking a hard look at the justification and whether the transportation authority has done enough to increase efficiency.

"What we're probing for is any evidence we can find that TransLink can actually manage with less revenue than is in its plans currently – including the fare increase – and still deliver all the projects and services that are in its approved plans," Crilly said.

He could reduce the fare hike if he judges TransLink can make do with less or find more money elsewhere.

The commissioner is calling for the public to comment on the proposed increase by by emailing comments@translinkcommission.org by Feb. 15.

TransLink says it hasn't decided what measures or service cuts it would impose if the fare increase isn't approved.

But in a series of answers to Crilly's questions, the authority indicates it could still raise monthly pass prices, since the regulator only has authority to block short-term fare hikes.

Bus service could also be cut, TransLink said, but noted it would have to eliminate 300,000 service hours or six per cent of total bus service to achieve a $25 million cut in spending.

And although faregates are coming to SkyTrain, TransLink doesn't expect to recoup much money by eliminating fare evasion.

It estimates its rollout of faregates and Compass smart cards in 2013 will save close to $7 million a year, but says those savings are already assumed in TransLink's financial plans.

Crilly must rule on the fare hike by March 27.

Any decision must ensure TransLink can still deliver the expanded services it promises and remain on sound financial footing.

He expects a further request from TransLink to change its fare structure sometime in mid-2013, when Compass payment cards are to be rolled out.

Crilly has hired Shirocca Consulting to analyze TransLink's finances and provide advice on potential areas for savings.

He intends to look at administrative costs and has also asked TransLink to explain how it has responded to recommendations the provincial government's Comptroller General issued in 2009 after a review of the transportation authority.

That report found TransLink had an "excessive" number of senior executives, prompting the CEO to eliminate three vice-presidents.

A 2013 fare increase would come on the heels of an already approved two-cent gas tax increase next April to fund part of TransLink's contribution to the Evergreen Line as well as a package of other transit upgrades.

Mayors and the province are also committed to negotiate new funding sources for TransLink, otherwise a property tax increase kicks in to pay for the balance of the newly approved projects.

 

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