TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond takes questions from reporters after his first public speech Friday before the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade.

TransLink sees 7 per cent revenue gain with fare gates closed

Increase is first sign fare evasion is receding, Compass card drawing more riders: CEO

TransLink has seen a seven-per-cent increase in revenue at Skytrain stations since the fare gates closed at the start of this month, CEO Kevin Desmond said Friday.

The fare gates starting closing April 4. This is the first sign of fare evasion going down as part of the roll out of TransLink’s troubled Compass card program, which has been delayed and over-budget.

“It’s going to take a while to see how everything fully settles out and of course we’ll look at system-wide, the buses as well and all the other modes,” Desmond said. “But that’s a very good indication of the very high utilization of the Compass cards and the fact that now that the gates are closed, more people are paying.”

If the seven-per-cent hike holds on Skytrain for the year, he said, it would come out to $6 million to $7 million in extra cash, adding he believes that is higher than anticipated.

That’s good news for the transit authority, since its fare gates have been roundly criticized. The latest of which involved people with disabilities not being able to tap their Compass cards and open the gates. TransLink decided to staff each Skytrain station to help those users open the gates when needed.

The CEO said he’s hoping for a more permanent fix over the next several months.

CEO makes first public speech

Desmond, who took over the transit authority six weeks ago, was speaking on a Vancouver Board of Trade panel about regional transit and transportation with Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner.

Both mayors said mobility pricing is the fairest way to pay for transit improvements, but noted the research on how it would work has yet to begin. Desmond supported the option.

As for how soon we might see more buses on the road thanks to the recently announced $370-million   boost in federal transit funding for Metro Vancouver, Desmond said it could take a while.

“As soon as we get the go word on the overall financing package, we can put the orders in with our contractor and within two years if not sooner … we could start seeing service on the road.”

Desmond, whose previous job was general manager of King County Metro Transit in Seattle, also said he’d like to look into ride-sharing to improve congestion.

“Obviously there are a lot of issues with that, legal issues, political issues here, which I need to understand,” he said. “We had a very strong history of that in the Puget Sound region, of a lot of different ways to move people around, not just the bus or, in our case as well, the train.”