How should distance-based fare pricing work? TransLink wants your opinion

How should distance-based fare pricing work? TransLink wants your opinion

Phase 3 of TransLink's transit fare review is now underway and the transit provider is seeking your input on how distance-based fare pricing should work.

TransLink says previous rounds of feedback showed that nearly two-thirds of respondents want the current zone-based fare system to be re-jigged into a system that would base fares more closely to distance travelled.

It's now presenting two options for how distances based pricing could work:

- Fares could be priced by kilometre on rapid transit, with a flat fare on buses

- Fares could by priced by kilometre across the entire transit system

TransLink said that feedback also showed strong support for a system that is affordable for frequent riders. It's now seeking input on fare products that would provide benefits for frequent users, such as a pre-paid pass or a pay-as-you-go system with a fare cap after a certain time or distance.

Criticism from riders

TransLink's manager of policy planning, Andrew Devlin, said widespread use of the Compass Card system, which was implemented in 2015, has allowed the organization to re-evaluate fare rates.

"This gives us now the opportunity to have this conversation with the region," Devlin said.

"We've been taking our time with this to really ensure we understand issues with the current system and opportunities to make it better."

Devlin said the lack of distance-based pricing on buses has also faced criticism from riders.

"A lot of people have told us this isn't fair," said Devlin. "We want people in this phase to tell us if distance-based pricing on buses is a good idea."

Challenges with Compass Cards on buses

Langley, B.C. Coun. Nathan Pachal said he supports a distance-based fare system on rail services, but doesn't want to see it implemented on buses.

"You have to look at customer experience," said Pachal. "When you start paying for buses per kilometre, you have no idea how much you're going to pay on your trip."

Pachal also said TransLink introduced a flat rate for bus trips because they had difficulty ensuring commuters tapped their Compass Cards every time they entered and exited the vehicle.

"There's some challenges especially when it comes to the amount of people using a bus at major stops," said Pachal.

"I'm not sure what customer service benefits you get from a new system on buses."

Pachal pointed to London, England as an example of a city where distance-based rates apply to rail transit, but aren't used on buses.

Feedback sought until Dec. 8

TransLink is also considering introducing new customer discounts.

Transit riders can provide feedback until Dec. 8 by visiting the Transit Fare Review page and taking the survey.

The survey results will be used to come up with a final recommendation for potential changes to the fare structure in Phase 4 of the review next year.

 Over 40,000 people participated in phases 1 and 2 of the Transit Review Plan.