There are no consequences for people who refuse to pay the $173 tickets for fare evasion, Metro Vancouver transit officials have confirmed.
TransLink spokesman Drew Snider says the regional transit authority has the authority to issue tickets, but no authority to enforce their payment.
The provincial automobile insurance agency ICBC is responsible for the collection of fines, according to Snider.
Officials at ICBC confirm the Crown insurance corporation does collect the fines when people choose to pay them, but say they have no authority to force people to pay.
Nobody is required to pay the fines before they renew their car insurance or their driver's licence, but they do refer unpaid fines to a collection agency if they remain unpaid for one year, ICBC officials told CBC News.
But whether they are aware of the loophole or not, it already appears many people ticketed on buses or SkyTrains for fare evasion aren't paying.
Fewer than 1 in 8 tickets paid
According to ICBC's statistics, TransLink's transit police issued over 64,000 tickets worth $11 million for various fare-related offences over the 14 month period from January 1 of 2011 to March 1 of this year. That's an average of 150 tickets a day.
But 11,000 tickets were cancelled for various reasons and only 7,500 worth about $1.3 million were paid, leaving approximately $7.7 million in payable fines outstanding.
On average, Translink has been able to collect around $3,600 in fines per day, while losing out on six times as much in owed fines.
Translink CEO Doug Kelsey said it's a problem they've tried to fix for years.
"We've been reaching out for quite some time on a menu of options with the provincial government to help us through this. But, at the end of the day — right now — TransLink's sole responsibility is to issue the tickets, not to collect them right now," he said.
"But we do recognize, for sure, we need help to fix the back room."
TransLink is currently spending $100 million to install about 400 fare gates at SkyTrain and Canada Line stations to cut down on fare evasion and is installing a $70 million smartcard system.
The regional transit authority estimates it loses more than $7 million a year through fare evasion, which is up from estimates made in 2008 of losses of around $6 million a year.
TransLink does refer fines unpaid for one year to a collection agency. An earlier version of this story, based on information provided at the time by an ICBC spokesman, said TransLink does not use a collection agency for this purpose.Mar 30, 2012 1:30 AM PT