TransLink riders unable to use their hands to tap a Compass card will continue to have free access to SkyTrain and SeaBus stations using the Universal Fare Gate Access Program.
Sam Turcott, executive director of the Disability Alliance of B.C., applauded TransLink’s commitment to making its services as accessible as possible to people with disabilities. He said the feedback the alliance had received about the fare gate access pilot program was very positive.
“It means that people with particularly significant mobility and dexterity related disabilities are able to access the transit system just like everyone else,” Turcott said. “And we’re really pleased with TransLink’s decision to continue to provide individuals with the RFID (Long-range Radio Frequency Identification) chips free access to gated areas in the TransLink system.”
The universal access program, which was soft launched in January, makes it possible for people who have limited or no use of their arms and are unable to tap Compass cards to get through the accessible fare gates at stations.
Long-range radio frequency identification sensors are installed above the accessible fare gates at SkyTrain and SeaBus stations, so that the gates will simply swing open for people who have been issued universal access cards as part of the program.
Long-range radio frequency identification readers have been installed at 51 stations on the Canada, Expo and Millennium lines, as well as at both SeaBus stations. It’s expected that all SkyTrain stations in the system will be outfitted with these readers by the end of 2018.
Geoff Cross, vice-president of policy and planning for TransLink, told a board meeting on Thursday that 20 people had applied for the Universal Fare Gate Access Program. Eleven applicants were approved, five were waiting for meetings with occupational therapists and four were rejected. Those who were not approved were offered assistive devices to enable tapping at Compass fare gates.
The transit authority initially decided to give free universal access cards to eligible customers so they could use the new technology while TransLink finished installing sensors at the rest of its station and monitored the program’s reception.
On average, there have been 100 instances a month of the universal access card being used to access the gated transit system, with most users travelling infrequently.
“The take up was not significant,” Cross said. “We didn’t expect it to be — it’s a small portion of the population.”
He said the small number of customers who were eligible for the program was part of the reason the service would remain free.
The Universal Fare Gate Access Program cost $9 million to set up, with half paid for by the federal government, 33 per cent from the province and the rest from TransLink.