It was five years ago when fare gates began appearing at the entrances to Vancouver SkyTrain stations. Starting April 4, they’ll finally come into use – system-wide.
It will officially be the end of an era for Vancouverites who grew up using a SkyTrain network that essentially operated on the “honour system.” Transit police did occasionally crack down on fare evaders, but there were no gates to keep people from wandering into the SkyTrain stations without paying.
On April 4, TransLink will officially shut all the gates at SkyTrain and SeaBus stations, a roll-out that is expected to be completed by April 8. Riders will be required to use a valid Compass Card or single-use Compass ticket to tap into the system and open the gates. Compass Card holders must also tap out to avoid being charged for more zones than they actually travelled.
This change is actually not as dramatic as it sounds. Many fare gates have been closed for months now. However, TransLink had opted to leave at least one gate open at each station as a temporary measure to serve persons with disabilities. (TransLink is expected to have a permanent fix in place for this issue by the official roll-out date.) Furthermore, passengers are still able to use cash or old-fashioned FareSaver tickets on buses (which aren’t outfitted with gates).
Currently, 675,000 people have signed up for Compass Cards, which allow users to load a balance in advance, to be deducted with each use of the transit system. An estimated 300,000 cards are tapped in and out every weekday, according to an article in Vancity Buzz.
The key, however, is remembering to tap out. Right now, the tap-out rate across the system is 92 percent. Those who fail to tap out on the SkyTrain are charged for three zones of travel, even if they’ve only gone one zone.
One important exception: Due to problems with the tap-out technology on buses, passengers are only charged for one zone, regardless of the length of bus trips.
The $194.7-million fare gate and Compass Card system has been plagued by delays. Original plans called for fare gates to be in place as early as 2010, but reliability concerns repeatedly pushed back the implementation date.