TransLink to install fare gates at SkyTrain stations

TransLink and the B.C. government today announced plans to install fare gates at all SkyTrain stations, as well as Smart Card electronic fare systems.

The federal and provincial governments and TransLink will invest $100 million in the project. Construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2010 and is planned to coincide with proposed Expo Line station expansions.

According to today’s press releases, TransLink and the federal and provincial governments believe that implementing controlled access to SkyTrain stations will improve passenger safety and increase transit ridership.

Electronic fare cards are to be swiped by transit users before and after riding the SkyTrain and will allow the Smart Card system to collect data on ridership use and frequency. TransLink intends to use this information to “match service levels with demand more effectively”.

TransLink CEO Tom Prendergast acknowledged in the authority’s press release that a Smart Card system that collects ridership and service figures “can be done independently of fare gates”.

The press release states that Vancouverites “have perceived for some time that a greater sense of security will result from the introduction of fare gates”. It suggests that the absence of fare gates—and the accompanying perceived safety risk to transit users—discourages people from using public transportation.

According to Prendergast, the new fare gates will reassure the public that “fare evasion issues are being addressed” and will increase ridership.

Both releases did not mention if and how transit fares will be affected by implementing fare gates and a Smart Card system.



The Unknown Zero

Apr 10, 2009 at 6:57pm

100 million for fare gates that will magically increase ridership? "oh hey look, gates! Oh boy, now I'm going to give up my car ride the trains!" Anyone else just dumbfounded here? Anyone relying on the transit system is still going to take it, how does gates bring car people into public transit? Are there really people who do not use the public transit system out of fear for their safety? Do these people really think that gates will stop someone who has enough $ for a knife or a gun? Even an imaginary crazed person who wants to attack someone isn't going to let $2.00 stop them, but even if it did, won't they just wait near the gate? Maybe the crackhead really desperate for cash won't get into the gates, but that's such a small % of who causes safety issues on the skytrain (these people tend to like change in cars). I hate this government soooo much, even if just the blatant lying stopped I'de stop complaining. Maybe those idiots actually believe their own BS.


Apr 10, 2009 at 11:52pm

What, precisely, is the amount of money being lost to fare cheats compared to the $100 million it will cost to repel them?

What interest rate will, compounded over many years, be paid on top of the $100 million? And what will be the cost of the SkyTrain police (training, wages, benefits, bullets and overhead) in addition to the $100 million-plus?

Has anyone done the math? It seems unlikely, or the Liberals would have boasted about it by now.

And does anyone imagine these extraordinary charges will actually decline?

More and more, the cost of Gordon Campbell's turnstiles are looking like the $200 million we were told would be the budget of the Convention Centre.

Lisa Barrett

Apr 12, 2009 at 12:52pm

Amazing how short our institutional memories are...From my archive files:

No slowing down for Dobell
Jonathan Fowlie, with files from Doug Ward, Vancouver Sun
Published: Tuesday, March 11, 2008
VICTORIA - Premier Gordon Campbell's former top aide appears to have suffered little damage to his widespread influence, even as he is expected to rise in court today to plead guilty to a charge under the provincial lobbying act.
Ken Dobell, Campbell's former deputy minister and special adviser, is registered to lobby Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon on behalf of a multinational company makes transit gates and fare collection systems.
Dobell, a former TransLink CEO, registered for that role on behalf of Cubic Transportation Systems Inc. about two weeks after Falcon publicly announced he wanted to see TransLink bring controlled-access gates and Smart Cards to SkyTrain.

Lisa Barrett

Apr 12, 2009 at 12:56pm

This is the American military contractor who Ken Dobell was (still is?) representing:
Founded in 1951, Cubic Corporation today is the parent company of two major segments: Transportation and Defense.

Cubic's Defense Group provides realistic live combat training systems for military forces as well as virtual training systems, constructive simulation support, force modernization, battle command training and education and engineering & technical support. The group also supplies tactical battlefield systems and communications electronics, including tactical data links and surveillance receivers for "C4ISR" applications and search-and-rescue avionics.

Cubic Transportation Systems designs, manufactures and integrates automatic fare collection systems for public transit projects throughout the world. This includes rail, bus and parking lot systems. The company supplies contactless smart cards; magnetic stripe cards; device software; and transit hardware including gates, ticket machines and card readers.


Apr 13, 2009 at 11:22am

Installing turnstiles is a poor use of money that could be better used to improve service. By all accounts, installing the turnstiles amounts to spending about $100 million to save about $6 million a year in lost fares. That is simply now how I want my tax dollars to be spent. I use the Skytrain every week day, and I can only imagine the backlog that turnstiles would cause during rush-hour, and all for what? For some satisfaction that the perhaps 5% of users who are either unable to unwilling to pay are kept at home? Is it really worth $100 million dollars and further inconvenience just to stop a few poor people from riding transit for free?

Chris Mackenzie

Apr 18, 2009 at 2:50pm

Contactless smart cards have have been in use in conjunction with turnstiles in metropolitan transport systems around the world for over ten years with much success. While the initial capital investment may seem high, the long term societal benefits stay for years to come.

Financially, fare evasion is minimized as it puts fare evaders directly in the public eye. Anybody to jump over the turnstiles will be clearly detected by fellow transit users as well as security cameras monitored live by security personnel. While this may not completely eliminate the problem, it is sure to make fare evaders think twice. Furthermore, the implementation of smart cards will undoubtedly have lower long term running costs than the current fare box system. Translink currently spends a lot of money hiring employees to count the coins from fare-boxes and to do maintenance on the boxes every night. Contactless smart card readers will have not have mechanical moving parts and therefore require significantly less maintenance. Card refills will all be done with machines at major transit stations, much of which will involve credit and debit card transactions as well as paper bills, reducing the cost of counting cash.

In terms of added security, the system will reduce the number of trips made by transient individuals and hard drug addicts. Of course, the violent crimes done in the transit system is usually not committed by these fare-evading riders, but this will at least provide a perception of safety that will boost rider confidence. Only when people of all ages traveling at any time of the day feel safe and only when parents are confident to allow their children to use the transit system without direct supervision will ridership grow. A higher ridership will further increase public perception of transit safety. Having a secured metro system also frees up more security personnel to establish more public presence by patrolling stations and serving customers.

Don't forget, the smart cards will shorten bus stopping times as well by eliminating the need to cumbersomely count coins at the door.

Lisa Barrett

Apr 18, 2009 at 9:40pm

"Cumbersomely" response but thanks, Ken -I mean, Chris.

I feel so much more secure knowing that $100 million will go to a corporation that doesn't actually provide transportation while we are facing $150 million/yr budget deficits at Translink. Put it back in the hands of the elected people who have to be accountable to the taxpayers who fund Translink and maybe we will have a transportation authority that really wants to provide public transportation, not a gravy train for the big international corporations for whom you very likely work, Chris.

Chris Mackenzie

Apr 20, 2009 at 12:44pm

I'm all for a reform of the transit authority. In fact, I think the whole system would do best privatized. If Translink became a publicly traded corporation, both shareholders and customers will hold the organization accountable. I'm sure such a corporation will actually take the necessary measures to increase ridership and make the whole system economically sustainable.

All I am suggesting is that smart cards and fare gates work. Other successful systems around the world have them and we should upgrade our infrastructure to what's efficient.

As for your comment about me working for a big evil international corporation. I am a graduate student at UBC and I do not work for anybody.


Apr 24, 2009 at 2:46pm

They should have done this 5 years ago.

Joe T

May 30, 2010 at 10:44pm

Translink published, in their own literature, that fare evasion was less than anyone thought, yet they are ensuring that millions be spent on high security personnell and systems. It's a pure money-maker.