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Lost fares may hit Calgary Transit for millions

While fewer fares are being ticketed for catching free rides in transitfare zones, millions in unpaid fare revenue could still be slippingthrough the cracks.

While fewer fares are being ticketed for catching free rides in transit fare zones, millions in unpaid fare revenue could still be slipping through the cracks.

According to information provided by Calgary Transit, tickets for fare evasion on transit numbered 10,210 in 2009, down from a 2006 peak of approximately 11,220. Ridership in the same period went from 89 million to roughly 96 million.

Brian Whitelaw, head of transit security, said fare evasion varies at different times of the day, with the highest being in the late evening, but the addition of more transit cops and their presence has kept the fare compliance rate at around 98 per cent.

“There’s a certain point where obviously you’re not going to get 100 per cent of the people paying — but we don’t want the rate to fluctuate,” said Whitelaw.

Targeted strategies, based on time of day and location — and making sure there is evenness in the application of those strategies — is part of maintaining a high compliance rate, Whitelaw said.

But, Ald. Andre Chabot said tickets alone don’t indicate the number of passengers riding for free.

And, with a baseline two per cent fare evasion rate on 96 million annual rides, the lost revenue could be into the millions.

“It might be worthwhile to do a crackdown, and maybe over a period of time, just to see how accurate those numbers are,” said Chabot. He added an analysis of lost revenue might offset the capital cost of turnstiles at locations outside downtown.

Transit is looking at other methods to reduce fare evasion, including improving fare access, Whitelaw said.