SkyTrain fare gates sit idle, waiting for their day to shine

SkyTrain fare gates that are meant to improve safety and cut down on fare evasion have been installed for months, but TransLink has yet to turn them on.

Even after fare gates come online this fall, two stations won't be covered

Fare gates have been in place for months, but TransLink is in no rush to turn them on 2:18

Every day, thousands of people walk right through the brand new, expensive fare gates that are in place at Burnaby's Edmonds SkyTrain station — and not one swipes a ticket or taps a compass fare card.

The gates are part of a $170-million project that is meant to stop people from riding the SkyTrain transit system for free, and officials say each gate can accommodate 25 to 40 passengers per minute.

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.

Many of the new fare gates have been installed for months, but TransLink has yet to turn them on.

Derek Zabel, a spokesman for TransLink, said the fare gates will be "up and running" next fall.

"And it's going to be a transitional phase," he said.

"There's 1.2 million people that take the transit system every day and … you need to make that as smooth as possible for as many people as possible. All of a sudden you turn that on — you can cause a lot of confusion," Zabel added.

Even after all the fare gates come online, two stations won't be covered.

The Metrotown and Main Street stations are due for major upgrades, and TransLink says the existing fare gate design won't fit in with their layout and traffic patterns right now.

But the stations will have compass card readers, and additional staff will be on-hand to make sure SkyTrain riders are tapping in and out.

Some transit experts agree with TransLink's gradual approach.

Transportation planner Eric Doherty says phasing in the gates gradually is a good idea, and it may help prevent bottlenecks by giving people more time to get used to the new system.

"I'm worried that we're going to end up with transit riders lining up in the rain," Doherty said.

"Even if it's just for a few seconds, even if it's 30 seconds standing out in the rain, waiting to get through these fare gates, that makes a big difference to the pleasantness and the feeling like being a transit rider is something that's honoured."

With files from the CBC's Dan Burritt