According to a CBC News investigation, about three dozen Vancouver university students are illegally selling their discounted transit passes online for a profit, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The so-called U-Passes, which have a photo on the front and are non-transferable, are used by as many as 70,000 students at the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, Capilano University and Langara College.
The price of the passes ranges from around $100 to $150 for four months, depending on the school, and allows unlimited travel on all of Vancouver’s public transit vehicles (including the light-rail SkyTrain and aquatic SeaBus). The cost is automatically added to students’ tuition fees regardless of whether or not they use public transit.
An equivalent pass, for four months, would cost a regular transit user $544.
Searching the classifieds website Craigslist, the CBC investigation found that 35 students were selling their U-Passes online. The team then met the students in person and filmed them with a hidden camera. Some of them said they have no use for the passes, and sell them every year.
One student told the CBC that bus drivers don’t usually check the pass photo against its carrier, and that they usually “just flash it” when getting on the bus.
In an attempt to test the drivers, CBC sent one of its white female producers on a bus, armed with the U-Pass of a male East Asian student. The female producer flashed the pass at three different bus drivers, “none of whom batted an eye,” although she later paid the fare after telling the drivers about her experiment.
A spokesperson for TransLink, Vancouver’s transportation agency, says bus drivers can’t slow down boarding to check holders of the discounted passes, and increasing policing would cost more than a crackdown would save.
He also says it’s hard to quantify how much the company is losing to U-Pass reselling.