TransLink says it will move swiftly to implement its new-found permanent fare gate solution for disabled passengers who do not have the use of their hands.
A special stand-alone fare gate door will be installed at each station to provide a new accessible entrance for the small number of passengers unable to tap on the existing fare gate card sensors without assistance.
According to the Fare Gate Accessibility report, presented to TransLink’s Board of Directors today, it is estimated that between 15 and 50 people in a wheelchair are unable to tap on the fare gates which went operational in 2015.
With the new plan to install a special type of accessible gate, they will no longer need to tap on the sensor as a long-range proximity sensor on the new stand-alone door is able to detect the Compass Card’s RFID radio signal from a distance.
“We’ve spent the last few months looking at a range of options and identifying the one that works well for our customers and makes the most technical and financial sense,” said TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond in a statement.
“What we learned through discussions with affected customers is that a hands-free, proximity-based solution is the ideal permanent solution. Once in place, our system will truly be a leader in accessible transit.”
It is anticipated that the project will be fully completed and operational in about 18 months and cost between $2.5 million to $5 million. This replaces the current interim practice of ensuring there is a manned presence at fare gate areas during most hours of the day, particularly during peak hours, but it is not financially feasible over the long-term given the $12 million to $30 million annual cost.
In the meantime, until the new accessible gates are installed, TransLink will improve its station assistance service that allow passengers to phone right at the station for the immediate remote opening of a gate. Alternatively, they could also phone ahead at least 10 minutes before travel to have an attendant open the gate in-person.
These station assistance service improvements are expected to cost $500,000 and will be fully installed by July when all fare gates will close during all operational hours, ending the existing policy of having manned staff.
Disability groups, who were among some of the most vocal critics of the perceived fare gate accessibility problem, say they are fully supportive of the new plan, which was approved by the Board of Directors today.
“The Disability Alliance of BC is very encouraged by the approach taken by TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond to meet with us and Council of Senior Citizens’ Organizations of BC to seek our input on making the Compass Card fare gates fully accessible,” said Jane Dyson, Executive Director of Disability Alliance BC, in a statement. “Our organizations strongly believe that a long-range card-reader system is the most dignified and practical option for individuals who are unable to tap in and out of the fare gates.”
To date, the Compass Card and fare gate program has cost $190 million, which includes $40 million from the provincial government and $30 million from the federal government’s Build Canada Fund.
Across the transit system, fare revenue from April to May increased by 8% compared to the same period in 2015 and over 915,000 passengers are now using the Compass Card regularly. On average, over 1.5 million taps are recorded every weekday.
Virtually all trips are made with a Compass Card, which has reduced the number of cash fares on buses by nearly a quarter, effectively speeding up the boarding process.