The days of the honor system are almost over.
TransLink, which runs Vancouver’s SkyTrains and buses, has officially announced it will implement fare gates by next fall, according to an article in the Vancouver Sun. That means an end to the current system, where transit riders are largely trusted to purchase tickets and don’t need to pass through turnstiles.
The centrepiece of the new $171-million system is the Compass Card. Similar to metro cards in many other large cities, the Compass Card allows riders to deposit money for fares onto a swipable card – from a single day’s worth of fares to an entire month’s. You scan the card at validators when you enter and leave the transit system, and the correct fare is automatically deducted.
There’s a big convenience factor that goes along with the new system. Value can be added to the Compass Cards at fare card machines in stations or by phone or Internet. In addition, if you have a tap-and-go credit card (the “open wave” type), you can use that in lieu of a Compass Card.
The new fare gate system is expected to eliminate an estimated $15 million in annual losses due to fare cheats in Vancouver. Currently, the SkyTrains operate under a proof-of-payment system. Riders don’t pass through turnstiles but must show a ticket if approached by a transit officer on the trains or platforms. Failure to have a ticket leads to a $173 fine. Because monitoring is relatively modest, however, fare evasion can be rampant.
The new fare gate system is expected to begin operation in October, when an estimated 600,000-800,000 new Compass Cards will be issued. It has required a $171 million investment for, among other things, the retrofitting of some 1,600 buses and renovations along SkyTrain lines.
As early as this spring, test participants will begin using Compass Cards so that TransLink can iron out any kinks in the system before it’s fully implemented. To avoid confusion and ease the transition, fare gates will remain open for several months after the official October launch, as passengers get used to using the new cards.
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