TransLink will close all fare gates at SkyTrain stations by April 8, finally ending what has been an honour system for fare payment since Metro Vancouver’s rapid transit system opened in 1985.
The long-awaited Compass card payment system was fully rolled out to all passengers last fall but officials had to this point been reluctant to set a final deadline for sealing off the gates, saying they wanted to give users as much time as necessary to adapt.
At least one gate had been kept open at each station, allowing continued access by the disabled as well as transferring bus passengers who paid in cash as well as those who pay with prepaid FareSaver tickets have been urged to convert to Compass cards.
Spokesperson Jennifer Morland said FareSaver use is now down 80 per cent, while Compass card adoption has soared to 675,000 users.
“People are ready for the gates to be closed,” Morland said. “There’s been really big pick up of Compass to date.”
Once gates are closed, fare evaders won’t be able to simply walk through although it’s expected some will jump the gates or otherwise thwart the system.
“Once the gates close, we do expect to see fare evasion go down,” Morland said, stressing the data generated by Compass and the convenience for customers are considered to be key benefits.
People who still have unused FareSavers won’t be able to use them once gates closed, but can convert them to Compass stored value.
People who ride buses to SkyTrain and now pay in cash are urged to convert to Compass otherwise they’ll have to pay a second time to get a Compass ticket at SkyTrain – the paper bus transfers will no longer be valid on rapid transit.
TransLink staff have been testing day-long closures of all gates at selected stations through February and that will continue through to April. Attendants have been on hand to assist people accustomed to using the open gates.
But the new system is under fire as a step backwards for some people with disabilities in wheelchairs who physically can’t reach out and tap a Compass card reader to open the gates.
For now, they’ll have to use a station assistance service for the blind where they can phone in advance to request an attendant to help them through the gates.
“It’s a step backwards for people’s independence and dignity,” Disability Alliance B.C. executive director Jane Dyson said, estimating a few hundred users may be affected.
“We’re disappointed TransLink is closing the gates before coming out with a complete solution to the issue.”
She hopes some sort of proximity reader or method of having Compass cards attached to wheelchairs could offer a better fix.
What’s not acceptable, she added, is to expect disabled passengers to ask other strangers on the system to tap their Compass card for them.