The Compass Card and fare gate system at SkyTrain stations seem to be working for their intended purpose.
During a Greater Vancouver Board of Trade event last week, TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond made public that fare revenue generated from Expo, Millennium, and Canada line stations had risen by 7% since fare gates closed on April 4.
Furthermore, as of last month, 800,000 people were using the Compass Cards and 1.3 million taps were recorded daily on average.
“That’s a very good indication of the very high utilization of the Compass Cards, and the fact that the gates are closed people are paying,” he said.
A TransLink spokesperson further clarified that the numbers are preliminary and do not account for the $6.00 one-time cost to obtain a reloadable Compass Card. But if the figure proves to be a long-term change, it could translate to up to $7 million in addition annual fare revenue for TransLink.
The transit authority has an annual budget of approximately $1.4 billion, of which about $380 million is derived from fare revenues. In 2007, then-B.C. Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon mandated TransLink to install fare gates at SkyTrain stations and SeaBus terminals to deter fare evasion, increase passenger safety, and provide data on movement patterns that can be used to optimize services.
Issues with the system caused multi-year delays and cost overruns, with the project now expected to cost $194 million to install. The federal and provincial governments provided $70 million for the project.
Despite the issues, fare gates and smart cards are widely seen as essential elements of a major transit system. They found on most major public transit systems around the world.
At the Board of Trade event, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said he was actively working to have the provincial government increase its contribution to public transit projects from 33% to 40%, which would mean that TransLink and municipal governments would be responsible for a more manageable 10%.
This follows the federal government’s announcement that it would abandon its 33% model and cover up to 50% of the costs of the transit projects.
However, B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone rejected Robertson’s proposal later on in the day in a speech, saying that the provincial government is firm on its stance with keeping its contribution at 33%.
“We have very aggressive infrastructure programs across the entire province, including billions here in the Lower Mainland,” said Stone. “We are not able to increase our share beyond 33%, but the 17% that the local governments have to focus on represents one of the smallest of local shares in a long time.”