Thursday, January 18, 2007
LRT and fare avoidance
Denver CO - A story out of the Denver Post gives yet another problem with Light Rail Transit (LRT), fare avoidance. Many LRT systems use the "honor fare" set up to get around expensive fare collection methods such as manned booths or turnstiles.
The problem with the honor fare method is the penalties issued to riders that don't have a valid proof-of-payment (POP) don't deter the fare cheats. Most transit systems don't have the money to hire a crew of fare inspectors to wander around the LRT cars to check for a riders POP.
As with Denver, the odds of getting caught are slim. In the other systems, the odds aren't much better that you'll get caught without valid POP.
The costs to add expensive fare barriers that riders must pass through are much more expensive than paying a few fare inspectors so the transit system opts to go with the honor fare. Here is where the transit systems make a big mistake. They only hire a handful of fare inspectors to cover hundreds of daily trips and their appearances are few and far between.
In Salt Lake City, they have transit police checking for POP instead of doing the job they should be doing which is responding to problems. In Pittsburgh, they will have the transit police checking the subway once the new fare increase goes into effect which eliminates the free zone. Again, this pulls the transit police away from what they should be doing.
This is just another issue with LRT that few think of. The cost to enforce fare collection. It's far cheaper and easier on a bus than it is with an LRT system that requires either millions of dollars of expensive fare barrier devices or a full crew of fare inspectors annoying everyone with demands to see their POP.
Nationwide, millions of dollars in lost revenue can be attributed to fare cheats and LRT leads the way in allowing the fare cheats to succeed. This only further raises the cost to operate LRT.