There is little incentive for non-drivers in B.C. to pay their transit fines, the ministry of the solicitor general said yesterday.

The non-compliance is a source of frustration for the transit officers who write the tickets.

A media report revealed yesterday that millions of dollars in fare evasion tickets go unpaid every year.

Transit fines are collected by the Insurance Corporation of B.C., which refuses driver’s licences to people with outstanding debt, including tickets for fare evasion.

One issue, however, is that many fare evaders don’t have driver’s licences and therefore have little incentive to pay the ticket, the ministry said in an email.

Transit police issued 9,909 tickets for fare evasion during the first six months of 2009, according to a media report. Only 1,423 tickets, or about 14 per cent, were paid. Outstanding fines totalled more than $1 million.

“The fact is,” said TransLink spokesman Ken Hardie, “for the vast majority of cases, if people don’t pay, nothing happens.”

For TransLink, the concern is that if there is no perceived risk of getting caught and having to pay a fine, the number of fare evaders on the system could increase.

Transit Police spokesman Sgt. Tom Seaman said unpaid fines have long been a problem.

“When officers became aware of how many were not being paid, it became a frustrating issue,” Seaman said.

In the long term, the province and TransLink plan a $100-million fare gate and smart-card system that should decrease, but not eliminate, fare evasion.

Hardie said the fare gates are still a couple of years away. The Canada Line and Millennium Line stations could be done quite easily, he said, but some Expo Line stations would require extensive renovations.

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