Public transport in Vancouver is a mixed blessing, especially during the Olympics. Extra buses and trains have been supplied to carry the hundreds of thousands of visitors, but regular routes have been changed and generally messed about with, to the annoyance of regular users (and the drivers).
One of the quirks of the system is that, strictly speaking, there is no obligation to pay. The buses and trains, and the amusingly futuristically named Skytrain (Vancouver's sometimes overground, sometimes underground light rail system) are all within a 'fare paid' zone, meaning that you should be paying $2.50 for the zone covering the central district, rising to $3.75 further out to North and West Vancouver. (I know there's a third zone – I haven't been there yet.) But the system is such that a bus driver is unable to prevent you from getting on a bus, and making no effort to pay. In one of my early bus trips in the city, out into the delightful Eastside area, a chap drinking something that clearly wasn't coffee out of a coffee cup slurred that, in no uncertain terms, was I *ever* to pay to travel on a bus. He certainly didn't.
The Skytrain is even more incredible. You can reach the platform without having to go through a barrier; no-one checks whether you are carrying a valid ticket, and I certainly haven't seen any individuals answering to the title of "Revenue Protection Officers" (for my readers who don't often travel by train, that's the official name for conductors these days). Perhaps the fact that the areas served by the Skytrain are so limited is sufficient deterrent to fare dodgers?
Having no ability to prevent a passenger getting on a bus without paying doesn't mean, however, that bus drivers are powerless. Earlier this evening, I watched two young men in baseball caps get onto our regular bus from downtown to the West End. Aaah, I thought to myself, how interesting to see that scallies exist here in this city renowned for how great it is. Almost immediately, the bus driver fired up his intercom, coughing slightly, and said "I heard you jangling your change. You're not very good at scamming a ride if I hear you jangling your change as you go by me".
The passenger who was just getting onto the bus replied "Who? Me?" to which the driver responded "No… I'm talking to the young man who should be at the front of the bus right now, buying a ticket".
Such is the power of community disapproval here in Vancouver that a chastened scally immediately made his way to the front of the bus and bought a ticket. Smiles all round – amongst the other passengers, at least.
Vancouver's new electric buses; the number 6 is our regular route from the West End into Vancouver central. Picture from the Creative Commons Flickr stream of dejahthoris.