With fare gates coming into operation at SkyTrain and Canada Line stations next year, TransLink has yet to smooth out potential wrinkles in the new system.
One involves a particular benefit enjoyed by riders with prepaid passes. On Sundays and holidays, two adults and four children aged 13 and under can travel on a single TransLink adult monthly fare card or West Coast Express 28-day pass, or an annual employer transit pass.
“All we can tell you right now is that the offering will still be there,” spokesperson Ken Hardie told the Straight by phone. “How it will work—at this point, we don’t have that detail for you.”
Except for Main Street Station in Vancouver and Metrotown Station in Burnaby—where they may be brought in at a later date—fare gates are being installed at all SkyTrain, Canada Line, and SeaBus stations. Riders will be required to tag in and out at turnstiles using an electronic fare card. It’s a $170-million project that TransLink claims will improve service and minimize fare evasion.
“There’ll be a process by which people can still use their monthly pass in the same way they do now,” Hardie said.
Last month, B.C. transportation minister Blair Lekstrom said during deliberations at the legislative assembly that the system will be tested starting in January 2013. It will become operational in May of the same year.
Transit advocate Paul Hillsdon anticipates that the riding public will have to make quite an adjustment. “There’s a lot of logistical issues getting the new fare system to be equivalent to what we have now,” Hillsdon told the Straight in a phone interview.
There are other matters related to fares that TransLink hasn’t resolved yet, according to Hillsdon, an SFU geography student who ran as an 18-year-old candidate for Surrey council in 2008. These include whether the three-zone system will remain in place, or whether TransLink will shift to distance-based fares.
“If those trips become more expensive than they currently are, then they [riders] won’t be making those trips,” Hillsdon said. “So you start tampering with it and then it becomes ‘Well, how do we ensure that we maintain the same revenues that we have now?’ ”