A number of Campbell River transit riders are skipping their bus fare and that’s costing the city – and taxpayers – revenue because council may have to make up the difference with increased taxes.
“Our revenue loss has been somewhat significant at the fare box,” Drew Hadfield, city Director of Operations, told council during a preliminary budget discussion at the Feb. 7 Committee of the Whole meeting. “I would say that most of our passengers are using the service and paying for the service but we do have a number of people who are not doing that as well.”
This revelation seemed to shock city councillors somewhat. It came out during a proposed financial plan overview provided by the city’s finance department in preparation for the upcoming city budget discussions.
Campbell River’s net transit costs are expected to increase by approximately $355,000 this year, equivalent to a 0.99 per cent tax increase, council was told. This nearly one per cent tax increase is part of the potentially 12 per cent tax increase the city may be facing this year, depending on decisions city council makes during budget discussions.
Last year the city received a grant from the province to help minimize the financial impact on the city’s reduced ridership as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall transit revenues have remained relatively static since the city has emerged from the pandemic and have remained flat due to a significant portion of riders not paying for service, council was told. That last line was contained in a slide in the presentation and caught Coun. Susan Sinnott’s eye.
“Can I just get some clarity on that line that says the majority of writers are not paying? Is that an issue we’re having (with) compliance?” she asked.
Hadfield replied, “Yes, it’s an ongoing issue with both our local service as well as services throughout the province. BC Transit has a policy for the drivers not to engage with their passengers if they refuse to pay. And they do ride for free when they do this.
“We are having an issue here, locally, with passengers that are not paying fares when they get on the bus because they know the system now.”
Councillors wanted to know if there’s any data on what percentage of people are not paying and perhaps figure out what the financial impact is to taxpayers.
“Just like us not giving away free electricity for people that have electric cars,” Mayor Kermit Dahl said, “I don’t think that we should be giving away free bus rides to people. That’s not the taxpayers’ job to subsidize that.”
Hadfield said staff will get the numbers from BC Transit and can use that to “do a rough estimate.”