Transit users who aren't physically able to tap a Compass Card at SkyTrain fare gates will soon be able to gain access by using a radio-frequency identification card.
The $9 million Universal Fare Gate Access Program, funded by the federal and provincial governments and TransLink, provides eligible customers a radio-frequency identification enabled card (RFID) to automatically open accessible fare gates when they move within range.
The card is read by an antenna above the gate and automatically opens without the need to tap a card.
"We congratulate TransLink and the disability and seniors communities for their hard work and commitment to ensuring that all individuals can use our transit system with independence and dignity," said Jane Dyson, executive director of Disability Alliance B.C.
Long wait for permanent solution
Disability and seniors advocates have been waiting for a permanent solution since the Compass Card was introduced in January 2016.
They had lobbied the transit authority to improve accessibility after the new tap system was found to prove impossible for use by some passengers.
In March 2016 the authority said it had come up with a system where an attendant would be made available to help — or a gate would be left open for those who needed it.
Advocates for people with disabilities said gates would be regularly closed with no available attendant, and that sometimes a gate would be open at one end of a station but not the other.
All stations equipped by end of year
More than 40 per cent of SkyTrain stations with fare gates have been outfitted with the RF readers. By the end of the year, all SkyTrain and SeaBus stations will be equipped with the systems.
"The integration of new touchless gate access technology: a first of its kind in the world, will ensure all Metro Vancouver residents can easily access the SkyTrain system," said Terry Beech, MP for Burnaby-North-Seymour.
Applicants to the program have to meet with an occupational therapist to determine if an RFID card is the appropriate device for them.
The program is now open for applications at translink.ca/opengates.