The provincial government says TransLink can't close fare gates until it addresses accessibility issues for those who aren't able to open the gates by tapping in and tapping out with a Compass card or ticket.

On Tuesday the transit authority said the gates at its SkyTrain stations and SeaBus terminals will all close by April 8. It offered station assistance service to help people with mobility issues.

"Our message to them is you have to assure unfettered access to every person no matter what their circumstance, whether they're seniors or persons with disabilities," said Peter Fassbender, the minister responsible for TransLink 

"If they don't have a solution that works for all of those people, they have to have a gate that is open." 

TransLink's station assistance service would require people with disabilities who aren't able to open the gates to call ahead and ask attendants to take them through.

The regional transportation provider's $170-million fare gates system was originally scheduled to be in place in 2010 and has suffered multiple setbacks. 

TransLink argued in the past that it needed to install the gates to improve security and make stations safer for customers, and to reduce the annual estimated losses of more than $7 million due to fare evasion.

Minister confident in technology

In an interview with On The Coast host Stephen Quinn, Fassbender was reminded of a 2005 TransLink staff report that estimated fare gate adoption would require the hiring of almost 400 attendants to staff the gates, partially to ensure those with disabilities are able to fully access the system.

"If you look around the world at jurisdictions like London, Los Angeles, … Toronto, where they have fare gates, people with disabilities are able to access it, and I know people here will be afforded that same opportunity," he said.

When reminded Toronto's fare gate system has attendants for disabled people at stations, the minister responded that technology had improved significantly since Toronto installed their system.

"When you institute a new system like this, you want to make sure that any of the barriers that might exist are eliminated. That is what we have asked TransLink to do," he said, adding there currently is assistance available for those who need it.

To hear On The Coast's interview with Peter Fassbender, click the audio labelled: TransLink can't close gates until access issues addressed says minister