PUBLIC transit users are being reminded this week that there's no free ride.
That's the message from TransLink as the public transportation system gears up for students and commuters heading back to school and work this week after summer vacation.
Transit police are planning to make their presence felt around the system this week, checking tickets at various locations to ensure riders pay their fares.
The move comes as new legislation makes it easier for TransLink to hand out tickets to fare evaders and collect those fines.
Anyone caught without a ticket can be handed a $173 fine. That amount goes up to over $200 after six months if the fine remains unpaid and can reach $273 after a year. Riders who still don't pay their fines can end up on a collection agency list. ICBC may also refuse to renew their driver's licence or vehicle registration.
In the past, it was up to the province to collect unpaid tickets and many were never accounted for.
With the new crackdown, TransLink hopes to make a dent in the estimated $18 million lost each year to unpaid fares, said spokesman Drew Snider.
TransLink has been announcing the location of initial ticket check blitzes "largely to give (riders) a chance to go and buy their fare in the first place," he said.
But he added unannounced checks will also be conducted throughout the system.
Most transit riders - who pay their fares - support the checks, he added.
"They resent the idea that some people are going to get on a get a free lift."
TransLink has also launched a website where people can pay their fine online or dispute their ticket at translink.ca/fareinfraction.