The TransLink board has approved short- and long-term measures to ensure unfettered access to fare gates by people with motor disabilities.
With these, the transportation authority will be finally closing all Compass card gates by the end of July.
“We’re very proud to be a very accessible system,” TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond told media after the board’s meeting at the public agency’s offices in New Westminster. “This is just further ensuring the accessibility of our system going forward.”
There are currently attendants who open gates to people with disabilities that prevent them from tapping on Compass card readers. If there are no attendants available, an accessible gate is left open.
Speaking before the board, Tim Savoie, vice president of transportation planning and policy with TransLink, explained that near-term solutions include letting riders through the gates via remote opening by staff using video monitoring. Another is the opening of gates by staff at the station following a 10-minute advance phone notice by the rider. The use of assistive devices will also be explored.
These short-term measures are estimated to cost $600,000.
The long-term solution is radio-frequency identification-enabled access to stand-alone doors. These sensor-triggered doors will ensure access without assistance. This system is expected to be in place after 18 months.
This permanent solution is seen to cost between $2.5 million to $5 million.
In his written report, Savoie noted that while it is difficult to know how many cannot tap in and out, “management have estimated that it is somewhere near the range of 15 to 50”.
Former Vancouver councillor Tim Louis lauded the move taken by TransLink on accessibility.
“Kevin [Desmond] inherited the problem. Kevin is fixing the problem,” Louis said in the media briefing he and TransLink CEO Desmond held. “Remote tapping is the fix. It’s simple. It’s effective, and it’s going to work, and we’re very pleased to be told today that the solution has been identified.”
During the board meeting, Mark Langmead, director of Compass operations, reported that more than 915,000 riders now use the Compass card.
Langmead said that 95 percent of fares collected by TransLink are from Compass payments. The remaining five percent are from cash payments on buses.
The TransLink executive also reported that based on transportation authority’s survey, over three-quarters of users are satisfied with the Compass fare system.
According to TransLink figures, fare revenue for April and May this year is up eight percent compared to the same period last year.
At the meeting, the board also approved an independent transit service in New Westminster. The service starts and ends at Quayside Drive, outside of the Donald’s Market at the River Market.
The board also approved an independent transit service on Bowen Island. The service will operate between Bowen Island, Horseshoe Bay and Downtown Vancouver, which will be timed with the Bowen Island ferry.