News / Vancouver

TransLink shift to distance-based fares inevitable: SFU expert

Transportation expert Gordon Price says he would be stunned if TransLink sticks to the current three-zone fare system going forward.

The move to a kilometer-based fare system on public transit in Metro Vancouver is inevitable, according to a Simon Fraser University transportation expert.

Gordon Price told Metro he would be “stunned” if TransLink ended up sticking to the current three-zone fare structure after it presented two distance-based options for public consultation earlier this week.

“There’s a certain inevitability to this once the technology becomes practical,” Price said. “I would just be stunned if the zone system was preferred by people. I just don’t see it [happening]. It’s a bad substitute for a more efficient form of distance pricing.”

Having an automatic way of paying for and tracking trips with the Compass card has “made all the difference,” Price said.

The current three-zone system is disliked by 60 per cent of customers, according to TransLink, and has been criticized for how short trips across boundary lines arbitrarily raise commuters’ fares.

TransLink is proposing two kilometre-based options instead.

The first option has a base fare starting at $2.20 – the same of the current stored value cost of a single adult one-zone trip – and 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.

In both cases, fares would increase incrementally (10 to 25 cents at a time) for every five kilometres travelled.

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

Price said TransLink was wise to keep the base and maximum fares under the proposed systems in line with prices today.

Both options represent an improvement over the current fare structure, Price believes.

“It makes sense that we would pay for what we use,” he said. “[The current system] is just so crude and unfair. It was the best we could do with the technology available to duplicate some kind of distance pricing at the time.”

TransLink is taking feedback on the fare options until Dec. 8 on its website, translink.ca.

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