Wednesday, December 13, 2017

TransLink bringing back independent access for all SkyTrain customers

When the fare gates on the SkyTrain system were finally closed in the summer of 2016, there were some customers that were no longer able to use the system independently. TransLink estimated that there were around 15 to 50 people with limited mobility who would now need SkyTrain staff to assist them to access the system.

Taking away a person’s independence is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly, and TransLink planned to upgrade the accessible fare gates at stations to give people back their ability to independently use the SkyTrain system.

If you look above the accessible fare gates at many of the SkyTrain stations, you’ll see a white rectangular panel. This panel is an RFID reader which will be able to detect a person who has a special card. If it senses this special card, it will open an accessible fare gate.

A new RFID reader installed at Main Street – Science World SkyTrain Station. Part of TransLink’s Universal Fare Gate Access Program. Select image to enlarge.

About 40% of SkyTrain stations now have these new RFID readers, and this new universal access system is scheduled to be fully rolled out by the end of 2018. According to a recent TransLink report, the agency’s management is now seeking board approval to start rolling out their “Universal Fare Gate Access Program.”

People who will be eligible for the program must meet the following criteria:

Resident of [Metro Vancouver] who is a person who travels independently and due to a disability, confirmed by a medical practitioner, is physically not able to tap fare media, without assistance, at a Compass Fare Gate, to use conventional SkyTrain and SeaBus.

TransLink management hopes that by starting the rollout of this program before the RFID readers are fully functional, they will be able to better tune the system based on the number of people that enroll in the program.

Our SkyTrain system used to be barrier-free, and over the years, TransLink worked to make the system fully accessible. When the fare gates were closed, accessibility was reduced which is unacceptable. Bringing back independent access for transit customers is critically important. I’m happy to see that TransLink is taking this matter seriously.

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