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

Stabbing at Surrey banquet hall sends man to hospital

RCMP says victim has ‘non-life threatening’ injuries, incident still under investigation

55-year-old man taken to hospital after fire at Surrey RV park

Firefighters find man suffering from smoke inhalation, burns to face and hands: battalion chief

South Surrey parking ticket perplexes, frustrates

Theresa Delaney predicts more people will be wrongly ticketed

OUR VIEW: Let’s find Surrey pellet-gun punks

Those who do have information – if they are also possessed of a conscience – must contact police

Coldest Night an event for warm hearts

Sources’ White Rock event one of 130 walkathons across Canada on Feb. 23

B.C. students win Great Waters Challenge video contest

Video, mural and song about saving the salmon claims the top prize

B.C. VIEWS: Power politics wins over rational energy policy

B.C Hydro continues to face interference on rates

PR firm suspends contract with former B.C. premier amid groping accusation

Edelman says in a statement that Campbell has served as a special adviser to the firm since last July

Vancouver crash leaves driver dead, 2 in hospital

Police are investigating what happened in 2-vehicle crash

James says B.C. budget puts priorities on NDP’s poverty, environment plans

She said she expected the government’s poverty reduction and climate change strategies to be priorities in the budget

Vancouver Giants blank Rockets

Langley-based G-men take over top spot in the west

PHOTOS: Day 1 of the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer

Games kicked off in Red Deer this week

Ammonia leak shuts down curling club in Nelson

It’s not yet clear when the leak was detected

Pavelski’s 31st goal helps Sharks top Canucks 3-2

Vancouver one point out of second NHL wild-card spot

Most Read