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Majority of fined fare evaders still don't pay

Transit Police write a ticket after a fare check in this file photo. - Black Press file photo
Transit Police write a ticket after a fare check in this file photo.
— image credit: Black Press file photo

The threat of bill collectors or being refused driver's licence renewals appears to have spurred more transit fare evaders to pay their fines.

But the latest statistics from TransLink show most of those who are caught still ignore the $173 tickets.

About 29 per cent of the 36,300 fines issued between September 2012 and the end of 2013 have been paid, generating $1.8 million off 10,400 paid tickets.

That's up from the fine payment rate of about 16 per cent in previous years, when TransLink had no way to enforce payment.

Since the fall of 2012, new provincial legislation makes ICBC block auto insurance and driver's licence renewals for fare evaders who don't pay fines, and allows TransLink to send them to collection agencies.

TransLink spokesperson Jiana Ling noted some tickets issued in late 2013 are not yet in arrears because of the 90-day window to pay, and other tickets issued over the past 18 months are being disputed through the courts.

Fare evasion fines go up $40 if they're not paid within six months and they go up $100 if unpaid after a year.

Ling said there are also signs somewhat fewer people are trying to cheat the transit system in the first place.

Fare checks by Transit Police and TransLink security show 4.8 per cent of passengers checked system-wide from last May to August had not paid the correct fare, and they include people who may have paid for too few zones out of error.

"It's a bit of an improvement," Ling said. "It's down marginally from previous periods of five per cent, with the buses showing the most improvement."

TransLink expects fare evasion will diminish further as a problem later this year when new transit faregates and the Compass card payment system are fully activated.

TransLink previously estimated the new fine collection system would cost $1 million to set up and $500,000 to $750,000 a year to run.

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