News / Vancouver

TransLink pitches distance-based fare systems

Metro Vancouver’s transit authority is seeking public feedback on two proposed distance-based fare systems to replace the current three-zone model.

TransLink is proposing two possible new fare systems that charges riders based on the distance they travel.

The transit authority launched the third phase of its ongoing fare review on Monday, proposing for the first time two specific options that could replace the current three-zone system used in the region.

Both options would introduce fares based on the distance travelled, so commuters would pay a starting fare that would rise incrementally every five kilometres.

TransLink insists any change to the fare structure isn’t about increasing revenues.

“Nobody will be paying more than a three-zone fare today. In this process we are retaining the total amount of fare revenue that we collect [today],” said Andrew Devlin, TransLink’s manager of policy development. “It’s about trying to have a fare structure with a better experience for the customer. We know there are a lot of issues our customers have told us about over many years with our current structure in terms of arbitrary zone boundaries, steep price jumps and short trips across boundaries. We want to find ways of addressing those concerns.”

The first option proposed by TransLink has a base fare starting at $2.20 – the same of the current stored value cost of a single adult one zone trip – and the distance-based pricing would apply on all rapid transit systems. Bus fares would remain as a $2.20 flat rate.

Option two would see the distance-based formula apply to buses as well, but would come with a lower base fare of $2.10.

All fares would be capped at a maximum of $4.30 per trip, the cost of a three-zone fare today.

The three-zone system has often been criticized for its hard boundary lines.

For example, someone taking the SkyTrain one stop east from Joyce Station in Vancouver to Patterson Station in Burnaby today is charged a two-zone fare of $3.25.

Yet the same commuter can get on a westbound train at Joyce Station and travel eight stations to Waterfront for a one-zone fare of $2.20.

Similarly, a trip on the Seabus between Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver to Waterfront Station in downtown Vancouver triggers a two-zone fare while the same journey by bus, across the Lions Gate Bridge, is just $2.20 because of the flat rate on buses.

“Some people right now are actually getting a really good deal, they’re paying a much lower cost per kilometer than other customers,” said Andrew McCurran, director of strategic planning and policy. “This is just trying to make the system more fair so some people aren’t paying a very high cost per kilometre and some people aren’t paying a very low cost. It tries to even it out.”

TransLink found in a recent survey that 60 per cent of people disagree with the current fare structure and 70 per cent of people support a distance-based model.

It’s estimated that under Option 1, 60 to 70 per cent of trips in the region will cost the same amount as they do today. Ten to 20 per cent will cost less and 20 per cent will cost slightly more.

Under Option 2, 30 per cent of trips will cost the same, 35 per cent will be cheaper and 35 per cent will be more expensive.

TransLink is seeking input on the proposed fare options, along with new proposed fare products and customer discounts, until Dec. 8 on its website.

The transit authority then hopes to make a draft recommendation for final changes to its fare structure by mid-2018.

By the numbers:

Current: Three zone fare system

One zone and all buses: $2.20

Two zones: $3.25

Three zones: $4.30

Option 1:

Distance based rapid transit and flat fare for buses

Bus: $2.20

Rapid transit base fare: $2.20

Additional fare after 5 kilometres: $.20-.25/km

Additional fare after 10 kilometres: $.15-20/km

Maximum fare: $4.30

Option 2:

Distance based rapid transit and bus fare

Base fare for first 5km: $2.10

Additional fare after 5km: $.15-.20/km

Additional after after 10 km: $.10-.15/km

Additional fare after 15km: $.5-.10/km

Maximum fare: $4.30 

-Source: TransLink, based on discounted stored value Compass fares

More on