A gay man allegedly labelled a “freeloader” by a bus operator has filed an incident report with TransLink.
Surrey resident David Evans purchased a monthly bus pass after his partner, Daniel Ma, noticed TransLink’s “Take a Friend” promotion on the company website. But when the common-law couple boarded their usual #320 bus a few Sundays ago, they were challenged.
“We were confronted by a driver who told us it was for families and not for the likes of us, basically,” says Evans.
According to TransLink’s website, the recently renamed Sunday and Holiday FareCard Special invites card-bearing riders to bring five people with them for free. “A total of six riders is allowed: Two adults (14 and older) and up to four children can ride on a single Adult FareCard,” it says.
The promotion makes no mention of what, if any, relationship the adults should have to one another.
The first time they encountered resistance, Evans and Ma paid the additional fare. Then they double-checked the promotion.
On Sunday, July 4, the couple again ran into trouble.
“The same driver said to us, ‘You can’t use the pass that way. It’s for families,'” Evans alleges. The driver let both men on the bus but threatened to report the incident to security.
Evans filed an incident report with TransLink and received an email back, telling him someone would track down the driver and speak to him.
Asked about the first two incidents, TransLink’s public information officer Drew Snider says the driver has not yet been identified, but was only following company policy as he understood it.
“The operator was following his training in that he was interpreting the tariff about the use of the fare card as meaning you needed to have kids with you,” says Snider.
Snider declined to comment on whether the operators’ manual actually states children need to be present for a cardholder to take advantage of the deal, but says TransLink has since reviewed the tariff.
“It’s actually come up that the tariff does allow for two adults to travel on the same fare on Sunday, so [Evans and Ma] were within their rights to do that,” says Snider.
“We’re taking a look at the way the policy’s written and the way the website is written, and we’d like to follow up with that.”
Evans was shocked when he and Ma were told by a different driver on July 11 that they couldn’t board using their pass.
“The [second driver] knew very well what the website said. He just didn’t agree with it,” Evans alleges.
After Evans explained to the driver what he’d read on the website, the driver let him board but marked him down as a “freeloader.” At the next stop, Evans says, the driver let a man and a woman board together using one pass with no questions asked.
“He had no idea we were gay, or that we were recognized as a family officially by the provincial and federal government,” says Evans. “We were victimized because we were two men.”
Snider acknowledges the behaviour of the second driver was questionable. “We’re going to look into that because even with the operator’s training, that was an unequal application of the policy,” he says.
Evans says he simply wants TransLink to take a firm stance on the policy and ensure that all drivers adhere to it. “And if TransLink really thinks that it should only be for a man and a woman and children, that that’s their definition of family, then they damn well better specify it. And we’ll abide by it.”
Since Xtra first spoke with TransLink, the wording of the website promotion has been changed from “Take a Friend” to “Sunday and Holiday FareCard Special.”