EDITORIAL: Take a hike?

Thank goodness for Martin Crilly, TransLink’s independent regulator

Thank goodness for Martin Crilly, TransLink’s independent regulator. He may be a bean counter but he’s the only thing that stands between transit users and fare hikes planned for 2013.

The TransLink commissioner may indeed find that TransLink is justified in hiking cash fares, monthly passes and FareSaver passes an average of 12.5% next January. (There hasn’t been a hike in cash fares since 2008 and monthly and FareSaver passes were bumped up two years ago.)

No doubt TransLink will argue that costs have risen at least 2% a year since then and, if fares were held to current levels, additional services would be delayed or cuts would be required.

Crilly’s job over the next few weeks, then, will be to look at transit operations to ensure the most is being made of existing services and that TransLink simply can’t do without more revenue. He’s also asking the public to weigh in by emailing comments@translinkcommission.org by Feb. 15.

This is not a big issue for people who don’t take transit on a regular basis. For commuters already bracing for higher fuel, repair and insurance costs, an extra 25 to 50 cents on cash fares, $2.50 to $5 on FareSavers and an additional $10 to $19 more on monthly passes are no big deal.

But these hikes are a concern to students, fixed-income seniors and moderate to low-income commuters who typically can’t afford cars and have no alternative but to take transit. These individuals can’t afford escalating fares and will have to give up something else to pay for them. Monthly passes, which most youth and seniors would buy, aren’t cheap and would be $124 (up $14 if hikes are approved) for a two-zone pass, for example.

There is also a concern that the occasional user will give transit a miss on game nights and other big events because it’s cheaper for a family of four to take the car and park. There could be a point at which high fares simply turn away customers.

TransLink argues that won’t happen because transit will always be needed and people will pay more for convenience.

We’ll see.


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