Boarding the bus may get more expensive again in 2013.

Boarding the bus may get more expensive again in 2013.

TransLink eyes big fare hike in 2013

Details of transit price increases to be determined: officials

Regular transit riders better brace for a big jump in fares in the spring of 2013.

TransLink intends to seek approval next year for an average fare increase of 12.5 per cent.

TransLink’s Moving Forward financial plan shows base fares are to remain frozen while monthly pass prices would jump 24 per cent in 2013.

But TransLink spokesman Ken Hardie said the exact increases in each category are yet to be determined.

Cash fares may go up that year, he said, and numbers in the plan showing a three-zone pass, for example, rising from $151 to $187.20 may end up less than shown.

“It won’t likely all go on the passholders,” he said. “How that fare revenue is actually going to be generated will be the subject of consultations next year.”

He said the numbers were included for accounting purposes only to demonstrate the revenue TransLink needs to raise in future years.

Another big factor in the future of transit fares is that TransLink’s Compass smart cards arrive in 2013.

“We’re going through a fare review right now to see how the fare structure will eventually roll out,” Hardie said.

The Compass card will initially be designed to mirror the existing fare structure – including the current three zones – to ensure all systems are working correctly.

Later, Hardie said, TransLink will redesign its fares “in a way that distributes the costs differently than they are right now.”

Potential options include the elimination of fare zones in favour of charging more accurately by distance or time travelled.

TransLink Commissioner Martin Crilly, whose office vets fare increases, said it’s too early to say whether he will approve a major fare hike for 2013.

“It’s a substantial increase,” he told Metro Vancouver mayors Thursday, noting 12.5 per cent is far above inflation.

“We will want to satisfy ourselves the increase is justified and can’t be deferred and not reduced in amount.”

More modest fare increases for inflation are also scheduled for 2016 and 2019.

Some mayors questioned whether the 2013 hike is too much given the region has high fares already relative to some other transit systems.

TransLink estimates the 12 per cent fare hike in 2013 will only result in a loss of two per cent of revenue from riders refusing to pay that much more, leaving a net fare revenue gain of at least 10 per cent.

TransLink projections show its fare revenue would climb from $421 million now to $517 million in 2013, in part through further gains in ridership.

Crilly was giving the region’s Mayors Council on Transportation his analysis of TransLink’s proposed plans to raise revenue for future expansion.

One big cost driver Crilly flagged was TransLink’s plan to replace buses with more expensive diesel-electric hybrid models.

But he found overall the plans are “not unreasonable” and would leave TransLink financially sustainable.

He noted the transportation authority has a history of failing to actually spend all the capital money it promises to after new revenue increases are granted.

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