Opinion: U-pass fare fraud still needs fixing

The issue has gone eight years without a proper solution, costing TransLink millions

Taesa Hodel illustration
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Reported by Joshua Rey

In 2011, when the U-Pass system was expanded to 11 post-secondary schools in Metro Vancouver, TransLink was estimated to have lost $15 million to $20 million because of U-Pass fraud. Eight years later, and this problem persists.

Some people are getting away with it too easily.

U-Passes are not allowed to be used by anyone other than the student who activated it with their student account, but students are still transferring them. There needs to be more done on stopping the online sale of U-Passes.

Tech giants need to clamp down

For example, sites like Craigslist and Facebook, where people post their cards for sale, need to stop illegal activities like U-Pass fraud. Users should report such activities and the sites must take down these transactions as soon as possible. If anyone is caught trying to sell their U-Pass, they should be reported to TransLink or transit police.

The U-Pass is a privilege for students, who don’t need to pay to renew the card each month or reload the card with money.

In 2011, it was reported that TransLink threatened to cancel the U-Pass program, though it turned out to be incorrect. However if fraud continues, they would be well within their right to do so.

A route forward

The U-Pass should be similar to your student ID, with a name, picture and student number. If you have your name and photo on your U-Pass, transit security will easily know it is yours when you present it for inspection.

Inspections should increase at the  Langara-49th Avenue Station and other transit stations close to post-secondary schools, where U-Pass fraud is most likely to take place.

This would prevent former students from selling their U-Pass once they graduate or leave school. A student should be required to turn in their U-Pass to their school before they graduate, just like returning overdue books.

U-Pass fraud still exists and no one is doing anything about it.

Letting it continue may cost the transit system millions of dollars, and may force TransLink to make changes to the U-Pass program that could affect students greatly.

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