Social network giants Facebook and Twitter are being used in the abuse of bus transfers in Greater Victoria, cheating B.C. Transit out of at least $200,000 a year in potential revenue.
The tickets are supposed to be used by riders to catch a connecting bus or a return trip within 90 minutes – not reused or sold.
An eyeglass case full of transfers was recently left behind on a public transit bus, each with a letter of the alphabet, good for travelling on certain days.
“You keep that in your pocket, you never have to hand in those transfers. You could probably travel transit for free for a whole year,” said Manuel Achadinha, B.C. Transit president and chief executive officer.
Adult fares for B.C. Transit buses in Greater Victoria cost $2.50 and a monthly pass is $82.50.
Some of that lost revenue will come out of taxpayer pockets, part of the reason behind a $28 transit tax increase this year per household in the Capital Regional District.
Transit officials were shocked to learn last fall that Facebook groups and Twitter accounts were being used to spread the word about the transfer letter of the day.
Facebook shut down the first group at B.C. Transit’s request, but that didn’t last long. It now has 30 members. and 14 people follow a similar Twitter page, but membership is not required for either.
“That’s the challenge with social media,” said Achadinha. “It’s very powerful and at times a dangerous tool.”
A disclaimer on the Facebook page says “this is for entertainment only. If you close this group, we’ll just start another one. So … let us be entertained.”
The Twitter account has a similar plug. “What is today’s letter? For those of us who love knowing the bus transfer of the day. Disclaimer: This is intended for purely curiosity’s sake.”
To combat fraud and offset B.C. Transit’s financial straits, the Victoria Regional Transit Commission agreed last week to scale the 90-minute transfer window back to 60 minutes, and restrict its open use to anywhere in Greater Victoria to a one-way trip.
The bus company will soon print new paper tickets that feature anti-fraud colour coding and dates. The changes could come into effect as early as April 1.
“By you frauding the system, all you’re doing is putting the burden onto taxpayers,” Achadinha said.