Translink’s Transit Fare Review suggests distance-based pricing on rapid transit and the West Coast Express. (Files/THE NEWS)

Translink’s Transit Fare Review suggests distance-based pricing on rapid transit and the West Coast Express. (Files/THE NEWS)

TransLink recommends charging by kilometre for rapid transit

Coun. Craig Speirs said charging by kilometre would not benefit transit riders.

Distance-priced fares on rapid transit such as SkyTrain, SeaBus and the West Coast Express may come in the future, a notion Maple Ridge Coun. Craig Speirs calls “goofy.”

TransLink has revealed final recommendations from the four-phase Transit Fare Review, which suggested charging rapid transit fares on the SkyTrain and SeaBus based on kilometres travelled.

TransLink said the majority of respondents want to see the distance-pricing on SkyTrain and SeaBus, leading to another recommendation to go ahead with a similar study for the West Coast Express to determine if those riders also want distance-priced fares.

“It’s goofy. Anything that has anything to do with distance pricing is not going to work for Maple Ridge and I’m not going to support it,” said Speirs.

The distance-priced TransLink fare suggestion follows a distance-priced vehicle suggestion from the Mobility Pricing Independent Commission released in May, known as “road-pricing, which would charge motorists either for distance travelled, or for every time they pass through a selected congestion point.

Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read previously expressed opposition to road-pricing, complaining that Maple Ridge residents would face the highest road charges while commuting during busy work hours.

In regards to TransLink’s suggestion of distance-priced fares, Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker doesn’t think the changes will have much effect on local commuters since there are no SkyTrain services to Pitt Meadows.

Buses and HandyDART services would remain a flat rate.

“The cost of busing remains flat, which is good for us on the fringes of the public transit system because our users are travelling the longest distance by bus,” said Becker.

Currently, TransLink’s three-zone pricing for a stored adult single fare is $2.30 for one zone, $3.35 for two zones and $4.40 for three zones.

Specific fares for kilometre-based trips have yet to be finalized, but TransLink predicts that trips on SkyTrain that travel long distances within a single zone or two would pay more.

Trips that would pay less include two—zone trips on SkyTrain that travel a few stations, but still cross a zone boundary.

Speirs, a mayoral candidate, said the current transit system is already too complicated and too expensive and suggested a one-fare system.

“They should have one fare to use the entire system. I don’t think zones work, it’s too complicated, and it should be cheaper for a transit user to use transit so we get more people off the road,” added Speirs.

While SkyTrain changes may not pose a concern for Pitt Meadows riders, the Transit Fare Review also recommended station-to-station or kilometre-based pricing for the West Coast Express.

However, Becker isn’t worried about changes to the West Coast Express, either.

“I think the pricing change for West Coast Express will not have a great deal of affect on our ridership either positive or negative. The West Coast Express is a premium service that comes at a premium cost, but nonetheless is still cheaper than taking your car,” he added.

Speirs said lower transit prices should be a priority.

“Whatever price they do, they should lower it so we get more people onto transit. It makes everything run more efficiently when we have transit full and as close to capacity as we can make it.”

Recommendations to move ahead with a similar study on distance-priced fares for West Coast Express have been brief, with the TransLink Fare Review stating that prices for travel between stations would remain the same until more opportunities are explored to align those more closely with distance travelled and ensuring affordable fares.

TransLink said customers would like to align pricing of the West Coast Express with other transit services, but the process would require more extensive work.

The issue behind rapid transit zone-pricing is that short trips crossing two zones are more costly than a long trip through one zone. Becker said distance-pricing makes more sense.

“It’s a more logical system rather than arbitrarily charging someone for crossing arbitrarily set zone boundaries. It’ll be based on kilometres, which is more reflective of the use of the system.”

Becker said Pitt Meadows is still waiting for SkyTrain services, and in the meantime, is advocating for more West Coast Express services and more Pitt Meadows stops for the future Lougheed B-Line bus, which is to connect to SkyTrain in Coquitlam.

“Like any other public transit initiative, it has to be easy, frequent and reliable,” said Becker.

Speirs believes TransLink is taking a Vancouver-Burnaby centric approach and said the current transit model isn’t made for riders in Maple Ridge, and that volume of riders is the solution to generate revenue.

“Single-rate and depend on volume to get the money. It’s really silly they think charging more will get more people into the system. They seem to want people to use transit more so do things that encourage people to use transit more.”

Speirs’ solution is to pack the train by offering low-priced fares.

“The train is running anyways whether it’s full or empty, so why not fill it up?”