NDP transportation critic Harry Bains predicts fare evaders will have a field day since TransLink says it won’t have turnstiles in place at two of the busiest SkyTrain stations when its new smart card and fare gates system opens next year.
Main Street and Metrotown stations won’t yet have operating fare gates because they are slated for major renovations and TransLink says it makes no sense to install the turnstiles and then remove them later as part of an upgrade.
“Why wouldn’t the fare evaders go to those two stations?” Bains asked. “It’s beyond comprehension what they are deciding. For $170 million, the taxpayer expects full service.”
TransLink Chief Operating Officer Doug Kelsey said Compass card readers will be installed on poles at those two stations and extra SkyTrain staff will be there to ensure passengers don’t walk on without paying with their smart card.
He said TransLink had always planned to renovate the two stations first and then later install fare gates there.
“Spending extra money to install fare gates twice doesn’t make sense,” Kelsey said.
Originally, he said, Main Street was to have been upgraded in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics, but when that timetable looked uncertain the project was delayed until after the Games.
Now the planned work at the two stations is potentially tied up in further delays after TransLink paused plans for various expansion projects until it finds more cost savings through an audit or more funding sources are agreed to by area mayors and the provincial government.
Kelsey would not estimate when gates will be operational at the two stations.
But he said about 18 months of construction work is expected at Main Street and as much as two and a half years at Metrotown.
Neither project is underway yet, so he said any delay while funding issues are resolved would be added to the construction timeline.
Officials still expect some level of fare evasion even on SkyTrain after all gates are in place.
The turnstiles are a paddle type that could be thwarted by someone athletic enough to go over or under them.
According to TransLink, the gates are of the same design used in the London Underground and many major transit systems around the world.
Kelsey said he’s optimistic that the provincial government will find ways to put more teeth into the collection of unpaid fare evasion fines and that will help reduce cheating.