Transit cash fares up 11 percent

By Carlito Pablo

TransLink spokesperson Ken Hardie says that next year’s proposed fare increase won’t really hurt low-income riders. He claimed that the new fare structure that will be tabled for approval at a June 27 TransLink board meeting actually provides an “incentive” for people who use either a monthly pass or prepaid tickets.

Under the plan, the cost of a one-zone monthly pass will go up from the current price of $69 to $73 in 2008. Using the assumption that a rider makes 42 trips with that pass, Hardie noted that the price increase for each trip is only a dime. It’s the same increase, he says, for a one-zone prepaid ticket, for which the price will go from $1.80 to $1.90.

Hardie pointed out that people who pay a cash fare will see their tickets go up from the current price of $2.25 to $2.50, or an additional quarter.

This would almost double TransLink’s proposed increase of six percent.

“Our market research shows about 72 percent of people who classify themselves as being on lower income buy either fare savers or monthly passes,” Hardie told the Straight . “So there’s a lot of really good reasons to provide an incentive, which we’ve done in six years or so for people to go on passes or fare savers.”

Rider advocate Zailda Chan isn’t buying Hardie’s sales pitch. The Bus Riders Union organizer pointed out that the fare increase will only hurt the bottom line of poor people struggling to make ends meet.

She said the cash fare for one trip is actually going up by 75 cents from the 2000 cost of $1.75. Chan also suggested that TransLink is merely going through the motions of holding public consultations on its 2008 plan. The eighth and last meeting will be held today (June 14) at the Thomas Haney Centre in Maple Ridge, starting at 6:30 p.m.

“We’ve been to public consultations for a few years in a row, and the fares have always gone up,” Chan told the Straight .

A May 2007 study done by Stuart Murray of the B.C. office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives stated that transit is a large expense for low-income families.

“Depending on how many zones are purchased, the annual cost of fare passes ranges from $828 to $1,560 per year per individual,” the CCPA study noted.

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