Fix access issue before closing SkyTrain gates, TransLink told

People with severe disabilities would have had to phone ahead for an attendant under TransLink plan to close fare gates by April 8

TransLink has been ordered to find a solution that works for wheelchair-bound people with disabilities before it closes all the fare gates at SkyTrain stations.

The transportation authority said this week it intends to close all the fare gates in the first week of April.

That scenario would leave a couple hundred severely disabled users who can’t physically tap out with the Compass card forced to phone in advance to have an attendant meet them to open the gates, using the same station assistance service that ensures access for the visually impaired.

Minister responsible for TransLink Peter Fassbender said Wednesday that’s not acceptable.

“This government has made it very clear to TransLink that before any gates are closed, solutions will be in place to ensure unfettered access for persons with disabilities,” Fassbender said in the legislature.

RELATED:SkyTrain fare gates close in April

TransLink officials said Tuesday they were striving to find a better solution, but one wouldn’t be in place before the planned closure date of April 8.

“No person should be prevented from having appropriate access to the system,” Fassbender said in an interview. “If they don’t come up with that then they have the responsibility to leave a gate open so that people with disabilities can have that access.”

He suggested phone apps could offer a solution to open the gates as disabled riders approach.

NDP MLA David Eby said a workable solution should have been found before now, particularly since other issues for the disabled were addressed earlier, such as gates that were initially too narrow for some wider wheelchairs.

Fassbender’s directive once again raises questions over who is in charge of key decisions at TransLink, he added.

“Either TransLink is independent or it’s a puppet of the minister. It’s really hard to say on a day like today,” Eby said.

“Now that we’re in this crisis moment, it’s pretty clear to everybody that the solution TransLink put forward was inadequate.”

Eby is concerned that looming deadlines to complete the project could leave TransLink on the hook for more costs with the Compass system contractor.

A delay would also mean more users paying too much if they forget to tap out when they exit SkyTrain through the open gate at each station.

The original directive to add fare gates to SkyTrain came from the provincial government to end what was seen as rampant fare evasion and increase security on the transit system, with a target opening date of 2010.

TransLink initially opposed gates as too costly for the expected reduction in fare evasion, but later embraced the payment system in particular as a way to get better data on travel patterns.

The system’s budget climbed to $194 million. It was promised to be operational by fall of 2013, but it would be two years later before the full Compass rollout to all users happened.

INTERACTIVE TIMELINE OF FAREGATES ISSUE

Just Posted

Fire destroys home in Surrey

Crews called at 3 a.m. Sunday for a residential house fire on the 12000-block of 100 Avenue

Alzheimer’s Society launches helpline

Toll-free phone line available for people with dementia and their caretakers

Art show to be held at White Rock’s Jan’s on the Beach

Art to be displayed until the end of December

New detox centre opens in South Surrey

WhiteRock EHN opened in response to opioid crisis

Saving salmon: B.C. business man believes hatcheries can help bring back the fish

Tony Allard worked with a central coast First Nation to enhance salmon stocks

‘A giant step forward’: new $10 bill featuring Viola Desmond to enter circulation

A new $10 banknote featuring Viola Desmond’s portrait will go into circulation, just over 72 years after she was ousted from the whites-only section of a movie theatre in New Glasgow, N.S.

Searchers in California wildfire step up efforts; 77 dead

Trump arrived at the oceanside conclave Saturday afternoon after visiting Northern California to survey the wildfire damage in the town of Paradise.

Trump says ‘no reason’ for him to hear Khashoggi death tape

“It’s a suffering tape, it’s a terrible tape. I’ve been fully briefed on it, there’s no reason for me to hear it,” Trump said in the interview.

Canada Post calls for ‘cooling off’ period to allow for mediated talks

The proposal came as Canada Post workers continued their rotating strikes Monday after rejecting the Crown agency’s latest offer.

Metro Vancouver homicide detectives busy after separate weekend deaths

Homicide detectives in Metro Vancouver are investigating separate cases involving two deaths they say appear to be either targeted or suspicious.

VIDEO: Vancouver Giants couldn’t find the net: coach

Even with a six-on-three advantage, the Langley-based hockey team couldn’t earn points Sunday.

High-end B.C. house prices dropping, but no relief at lower levels

But experts say home ownership remains out of reach for many for middle- and lower-income families

Worker killed in collision at B.C. coal mine

Vehicle collision occurred at approximately 10:45 a.m. this morning

Most Read