Transit Police conduct a check at a SkyTrain station in Surrey. Officers issued fewer fare evasion tickets last month

Fewer fare evaders caught despite more checks

TransLink optimistic more riders now paying to use transit

It’s been just one month since Transit Police stepped up fare enforcement and tougher tactics kicked in to make scofflaws pay their fines.

But TransLink officials say the initial results suggest more people are already paying their fares to ride the transit system than before.

Officers handed out just 2,900 fare infraction tickets in September – down from the roughly 5,000 tickets issued in the same month of 2011.

And it wasn’t for lack of effort.

Police conducted 230,000 fare checks last month – 40 per cent more than the 164,000 a year earlier.

“People are definitely more aware,” TransLink spokesman Derek Zabel said. “Customers are cooperating.”

He said it’s too early to call the September statistics a clear trend, but added the ongoing discussion of the changes in the media and social media have helped change behaviour.

Zabel said TransLink wants to thank both those who have turned over a new leaf as well as the vast majority of passengers who have always paid their fares.

In past years, most fare evaders who were caught never paid their tickets because there was no enforcement mechanism with teeth.

But that changed when the province this year gave TransLink new tools to collect future fines.

ICBC will now refuse to issue or renew licences or insurance for violators who don’t pay outstanding tickets and TransLink also has other options, such as sending unpaid fines to a collection agency.

Fare evasion fines now start at $173 but climb to $213 after six months and $273 if unpaid after a year.