Faregate system too costly, mayor insists

Despite approving a staff recommendation to ask TransLink to delay the faregate and Smart Card system implementation until a more in-depth business case analysis is procured, Burnaby's mayor isn't holding his breath.

"I think it's highly unlikely they'll give in considering they've made public statements on it," Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan told the Burnaby NOW in a phone interview.

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On the other side, TransLink would not say whether it would adhere to or acknowledge council's plea. Erin McConnell, manager of corporate communications, said the issue isn't something TransLink can comment on due to it being about Burnaby council alone.

"It's not appropriate for us to comment," said McConnell.

TransLink would not answer further questions about the system unrelated to council but said its website, www.trans link.ca/ontrack, has all the answers in regards to the project.

The faregate and Smart Card project's annual benefits may be $20.3 to $32.9 million per year, according to the City of Burnaby's July 6 report.

The project capital cost was estimated at $170 million, with annual costs of $7.7 million. The province will cover $40 million of the initial cost, while the federal government will chip in up to $30 million.

Otherwise, TransLink is covering most of the costs for the system it believes will squeeze fare evasions from six per cent down to 1.6 per cent.

At the last Burnaby council meeting, Corrigan said he didn't believe TransLink's numbers were accurate.

"Clearly, in the business case, it does not include retrofitting faregates of three stations, which are significantly more expensive," Corrigan explained. "It excludes them and skews the numbers."

"It does not reflect the level of expenditures that are not necessary."

He said that in 2002 and 2005 two independent studies proved TransLink could not afford to implement this system, which is why the board decided against it.

"Finally TransLink did an internal report," he said. "These phony priorities take precedence over real transit improvements."

Corrigan says the media is to blame as well for hyperbolizing the fare evasion issue. He said the media hasn't reported on the questionable costs because it refuses to criticize itself.

"We requested the case under a Freedom of Information request, the City of Burnaby did that," he said. "The media has been stomping its feet and holding its breath to see the system gated (despite) an inaccurate and erroneous report."

With two independent reports saying it was too expensive and one internal report giving the green light, "the media replies as trained clapping seals," he said.

"I know what I'm saying goes against public opinion," he noted. "My responsibility as a politician is to address reality, not perception."

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