Majority of riders pay for privilege

NANAIMO: People who cheat on bus fares are far and few between in Nanaimo according to regional transit authorities.

People who cheat on bus fares are far and few between in Nanaimo according to regional transit authorities.

Unlike greater Vancouver, where TransLink services are annually losing millions of dollars to fare evasion, Daniel Pearce, manager of transit operations for the Regional District of Nanaimo, says it just isn’t much of an issue locally.

Like their Lower Mainland counterparts, Nanaimo bus drivers keep an eye on how much change clinks into the farebox from every rider as they board the bus. If the fare isn’t paid or total comes up short, the driver pushes a button on the fare box indicating the transit system got short-changed and alerts management. A monthly report on fare evasion is generated from the farebox data.

“We do keep somewhat of a tracking, but we don’t notice that there’s a large issue with it, actually,” Pearce said. “Usually if we notice somebody’s not paying their fare, or it has happened more than once, a supervisor or myself will meet that individual on board and, basically, just let them know that they need to pay the full fare and take it from there. In extreme situations the police will get called – if somebody was aggressive and didn’t want to pay.”

The RDN transit system has 43 buses in its fleet, 37 of which are out at any given time covering 8,500 kilometres on Nanaimo routes every weekday. It’s a lot of ground to cover, but unlike Vancouver or even Victoria, Nanaimo’s ridership is still comparatively small, which means drivers get to recognize regular riders, especially recalcitrant riders who make a habit of not paying their way, which makes them fairly easy to track down if the police are needed to help reinforce the notion that they have to pay to ride.

Transit management also rides the buses regularly to monitor fare evasion and Regional Transit has also switched how drivers issue transfers to help eliminate riders who ask for a transfer when they don’t need one and then try to use it for a return trip.

There have been rare occurrences when passengers have become aggressive with drivers, Pearce said, but most of the time an incident has nothing to do with unwillingness to pay.

“The only documented conflicts we’ve had – I think we’ve had a total of three – and each one of those has usually just been with, mainly, intoxicated passengers that are more confused about where they’re going than anything else,” Pearce said.

One reason incidents of fare evasion are low in Nanaimo could be because the $2.50 fare is affordable and the cost of a monthly pass, $67.50, is a lot cheaper than operating a car.

For listings of RDN Transit schedules and fare prices, please visit the B.C. Transit website at www.bctransit.com.