UBC Students take Translink for a ride


by Eric Szeto

VANCOUVER (CUP)—A recent “Buy-and-Bust” operation by TransLink underscores the relative ease that students have when selling their U-Passes.

Over the past few months TransLink has been going onto online classified forums like Craigslist and the Buy and Sell posting ads that say, “email me if you have a [U-Pass] for sale, thanks,” pretending to be interested in purchasing the popular discounted pass which can sell for as high as $300. Students pay $20 per month for an eight months U-Pass.

TransLink officials wouldn’t provide numbers of people they’ve apprehended so far, but said that people caught using illegally sold U-Passes can be issued a $346 fine.

To further curtail the illegal sale of the passes, TransLink will be adding constables to buses. “[We are] stepping up enforcement on our 99 B-Line,” said Drew Snider, media relations at TransLink. “There will be some spots checks, similar to the skytrains.”

UBC, whose ridership has risen from 19,000 to 47,000 people per day since the inception of the U-Pass in 2003, has been active in the campaign.

“We want to try to prevent as much U-Pass fraud as we possibly can,” said Matthew Naylor, Alma Mater Society (AMS) VP External, adding that if the problem gets worse, the program could be jeopardized.

Students also face the possibility of getting a non-academic misconduct citation on their transcript if they are caught selling their passes.

The problem may lie with how easily people can sell their U-Passes, however. It takes moments to get a new replacement at a cost of $20.

Both TransLink and UBC said that this was irrelevant because when new passes are issued, the old ones stop working.

The Ubyssey tested these claims by going to the campus U-Pass provider, claiming that a U-Pass was stolen. Moments later, the Ubyssey took both passes and tried them on numerous buses. Both the old and new bus passes still worked fine.

The Ubyssey also took a U-Pass that was lost in January and it was still active.

Despite the Ubyssey’s claims, Carol Jolly, UBC Trek Program Centre director affirmed that these old passes shouldn’t work.

“If a student loses their card, we charge them a replacement fee, can get a replacement U-Pass, every time a U-Pass is replaced it nullifies U-Pass cards,” said Jolly. “Technically they shouldn’t.” A control number on the back of the card Uprovides detailed information about the card’s activity so that as soon as TransLink gets the information of a lost card, the fare box, where a person inserts their U-Pass flags the invalid card.

U-Pass users, however, flash their cards and are rarely asked to insert their card into the fare box.

Bus drivers, said Snider, aren’t obligated to enforce this. “A lot of it is the discretion of the driver,” he continued. “The driver is not expected to enforce fare collection anyways. The motto is inform don’t enforce.”

Snider said that there have been times when enforcement has led to violence so “if it looks like a U-Pass they’ll take it.”

It’s the dirty little secret that everyone knows but won’t admit, said Rhys Gilkes, 24. He said he uses a counterfeit one because frankly it’s cheaper…it ends up being cheaper than $70 a month [for a regular pass].”

Gilkes, who recently bought a used U-Pass from his friend, said bus drivers don’t check to verify whether the pass is actually theirs.

“The bus pass that I’m using, the person is of a different nationality,” he said. “It doesn’t look anything like me.”

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