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Faregates and Smartcards coming to SkyTrain in spring 2010

Faregates and Smartcards are coming to all 49 SkyTrain stations.

Faregates and Smartcards are coming to all 49 SkyTrain stations.

A big announcement today: faregates and electronic Smartcards will be coming to SkyTrain , with installation to begin in spring 2010 (Timeline is probably longer than this, so spring 2010 isn’t really a useful deadline right now).

It’s a $100 million joint project funded by us, the federal government, and the province. The federal government is pledging $30 million and the province $40 million for the faregates. TransLink has already committed $30 million for the Smartcard program, which we’ve been working on for a few years now.

Check out the full press release from the federal and provincial governments for more info.

You can also see our press release, which talks about how this project comes at an opportune time. Here’s a quote:

The announcement today of federal and provincial funding for fare gates on SkyTrain will allow their installation at a time that will best complement other major improvements on the system. According to CEO Tom Prendergast, timing the rollout of fare gates with TransLink’s introduction of a ‘Smart Card’ fare payment system on public transit as well as with major Expo Line station renovations is by far the most efficient way to get the gates in place.


  • By Rob Taylor, April 9, 2009 @ 3:20 pm

    Faregates. God…

    You’d think that when stats show a negligible fare-evasion rate, us transit riders would be treated with a little more respect than that.

    I hope no one will be surprised when riders start treating transit less respectfully in return.

    This is a sad day for transit in the Lower Mainland.

  • By shane grover, April 9, 2009 @ 3:32 pm

    great to here finnally faer agtes on skytrain after 20 yrs im in full support of it

  • By Cow, April 9, 2009 @ 3:47 pm

    I’m with Rob Taylor here.

    Also, I’ve heard rumours (haven’t seen data) that the magnetic stripe fare machines on the buses cost more than they recover in fares–they’re basically so that the BC Liberals can feel like they’re tough on something, since they can’t do a thing about crime or poverty or anything that actually matters to people.

    Is this true? Is collecting fares on the buses actually a losing position?

    I find the whole idea of fare gates on SkyTrain horribly offensive. Evaders will still get by just fine; the rest of us will now have to stop and deal with broken equipment and malfunctioning gates instead of being able to catch a train.

    It’s always a sad, sad day when we ignore the real problems in our city for pointless distractions.

  • By Dan, April 9, 2009 @ 3:55 pm

    Will TransLink & CMBC create a plan with the “huge” Fare Evasion problem for the buses. Cause im a little concerned once the turnstiles are introduced on SkyTrain that Fare evasion will go op even more on the buses. As a passenger i noticed the fare evasion skyrocket when the “Fare Paid Zone” system went into effect as well as the 3 door Boarding. I also notice a dramatic increase of fare evaders once the new low floor trolleys came into service. Aka more assaults. I really hope there is a plan in place for CMBC as the turnstile system will work on SkyTrain but not on the buses. If you can dig up some info Jen That would be great.


  • By Drew, April 9, 2009 @ 3:58 pm

    Is there going to be any funding for improving security at the bus stops adjacent to Skytrain? I feel way less safe at the bus stops next to Skytrain stations than I have ever felt within the stations themselves.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, April 9, 2009 @ 4:04 pm

    Hi Drew, you should check out this post about the Transit Police’s SkyTrain security strategy. There’s a lot of research and detail there about what is being done for security in the vicinity of SkyTrain stations.

  • By Corey, April 9, 2009 @ 4:13 pm

    While I understand the reason for the installation of fare gates, I wonder whether it’s the best approach to the problem. Many times, I hop off a bus and rush up the escalators and just barely make in time for a skytrain. On off peak times, when the trains are running every 8 minutes apart, the last thing I want to do is miss a train by 10 seconds because I’m slowed down by a fare gate. I also know how crowded some of these stations can be during peak times. I can’t imagine the congestion that will be caused by fare gates at Broadway, Metrotown, Commercial or Lougheed Stations during the am and pm rush hour.

    Also, in regards to these smart cards . . how will they work for people with BC Bus Passes, or people like me who visit from outside of Metro Vancouver. Before I had my BC Bus Pass, I would buy day passes, but I’m not sure I want to mess with a smart card.

    My final concern is that the more man made equipment we rely on to make Skytrain work, the more problems we’ll have with breakdowns. I can just imagine missing a bus or a train fighting with a broken fare gate.

  • By Brandon, April 9, 2009 @ 4:41 pm

    I sincerely hope that this funding falls through. Spending this much money to gain not that much back is ludicrous.

    If people actually spent the time to realize that turnstiles neither increase revenue or security, they would not be in favour of them. Please spend $100m on more buses or better service.

    I will petition my local politicians to rise against this spending.

  • By Alan Robinson, April 9, 2009 @ 5:12 pm

    Another nay.

    In addition to delays for the normal commuter, turnstiles are difficult to navigate for those with luggage, and for those new to the system. At the very least, we should delay these installations until after the olympics.

  • By Kewl, April 9, 2009 @ 5:16 pm

    I have no objections to ridership falling if there are less freeloaders. This means more capacity, less need for system expansion, lower fares and lower gas taxes. Yes once we have the turnstyles, it means we need less people monitoring for cheaters and they can be redeployed on buses. Since the Broadway station is being renovated now, why not put the turnstyles there now to test the idea out.

    The honour system has been abused too long.

  • By Reva, April 9, 2009 @ 5:28 pm

    Putting in turnstiles at SkyTrain stations is NOT going to recoup Translink $6+ million per year it claims to be losing from freeloaders. Fare evaders aren’t suddenly going to say, “Oh, ok, I’ll just pay the full fare then” — they are going to find other ways to evade, whether it involves jumping turnstiles, hacking smartcards, or simply choosing to ride buses instead where fare evasion is not enforced.

    And $100 million to install turnstiles for 49 SkyTrain stations?? That’s over $2 million per station! How was that figure arrived at? What contractor is going to do this? Was there a bidding process? Will the public be shown exactly where each dollar will be spent for this project, i.e. the price of each turnstile unit, cost of labour, details and price of station renovations to accommodate turnstiles where necessary, etc., and how it all adds up to $100 million?

    And I also want to know why the sudden change of TransLink’s position on turnstiles. In the “Be Part of the Plan” 2040 discussion forum, when people suggested turnstiles as a method of increasing passenger safety / deterring fare evasion, you stated that TransLink had undertaken various studies proving that turnstiles were not a good idea for our system because the cost would outweigh the benefits. That was LAST WEEK. What gives? I feel like the wool is being pulled over our eyes.

  • By Dan B, April 9, 2009 @ 5:32 pm

    Yes, wasn’t there a study just published about how low the fare evasion rate actually is?This turnstile nonsense is Kevin Falcon and the BC Liberals’ way of pretending to do something about a problem which isn’t really that big or that much of a concern. To put it better, I’ll quote “Vancouver on the Lines: Notes, observations and occasional rebuttals from the TransLink Media Relations types”:

    “Just as with the Highway 1 twinning and the South Fraser Perimeter Road, turnstiles are a problem in search of a solution.

    There is no economic case for installing turnstiles. They’ll cost tens of millions of dollars to install, require expensive retrofits to the Expo Line stations, and cost money to run.

    Compared to the $6 million lost annually to fare evasion, it’s clear that turnstiles won’t, and can’t, pay for themselves.

    Falcon, as usual, is sticking to his guns, even if it means ignoring the facts.”

    quoted from

    Of course, Kevin Falcon has no background or experience in either transportation or urban planning. He doesn’t even have a Master’s Degree — he has only a BA in English. I suppose that somehow qualifies him for the position of Transport Minister.

    Of course, neither Gordon Campbell nor Kevin Falcon have ever used, nor will they begin to use, public transit, save for those rare press conferences when they can stage a press-friendly photo-op on a private transit run, such as with the Canada Line tests.

    I have more respect for the BCRTC and TransLink folk, like Doug Kinsley, who actually use the product they pitch. I don’t believe TransLink is spending money on turnstiles, just the Smart Card system. The gates are friendly little riders that Victoria and Ottawa are adding on. If TransLink doesn’t agree to install the turnstiles, they won’t get any technology money.

    Of course, I consider smart cards to be extremely wasteful too, given our small population and low service coverage (in terms of average frequency for the system as a whole and for numbers of persons within 0.5 km of the “frequent” network) when compared to other cities which employ those technologies. The current system works just fine.

    @ Brandon — if your “local politicians” are Federal Tories or BC Libs, don’t waste your energy. If I were you, I’d focus instead on voting on 12 May to elect someone new.

  • By Ryan, April 9, 2009 @ 5:53 pm

    Bravo! I travel to the UK regularly and have an Oyster card which makes it so much easier to use and get around.

  • By Reva, April 9, 2009 @ 5:54 pm


  • By Reva, April 9, 2009 @ 5:55 pm

    This website does not secure your email.

  • By Reva, April 9, 2009 @ 5:55 pm

    This will hopefully erase the previous email on this site.

  • By ???, April 9, 2009 @ 6:51 pm

    I was going to vote against the Liberals. This turnstyle thing has suddenly turned me into a supporter.

    Gorden Campbell and Steven Harper loves yah…

  • By Reva, April 9, 2009 @ 9:47 pm

    Yes, those last 3 Reva posts were not me — and when I did post above, it tried to sign me in as Dan B! :P

  • By Dan B, April 9, 2009 @ 10:07 pm

    @ Reva:

    Don’t worry, you’re in good company. It was going to sign me as you! Anyhow, does it really surprise you that we’re all of a sudden at war with East Asia and not Eurasia? We were never really at war with Eurasia after all, they were always our ally — even last week!

    Allegories aside, the reason for this hypocritical about-face is derived from the Liberals’ act which changed TransLink from the “Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority” into the “South Coast British Columbia Transit Authority”. That move put TransLink directly under the control of the Provincial Government, where before it used to be an independent body made of of GVRD municipalities. (How do you think the Gateway programme went through when the municipalities were against it? Isn’t it strange how the timing of the TransLink takeover and the finalising of the Gateway project worked out?) The commissioners are no longer elected — they are appointed by Campbell’s government. Also, decisions can be overturned, and political interference in operations is allowed.

    The good news, however, is that, just in time for the Olympic Games, the chocolate ration will be increased to twenty grammes!

  • By David, April 9, 2009 @ 10:27 pm

    I’m not going to post here with my real email address until someone fixes this problem. It appears to cache the address of the last poster and give it out to everyone who visits the blog.

    I’ll keep reading and when the problem has been fixed I’ll start adding comments again with my real identity.

    Fix the identity theft problem TransLink!!

  • By David Arthur, April 10, 2009 @ 7:43 am

    I would hope the fare gates in question ~won’t~ be turnstiles. Modern fare gates, which you’ll see in cities like London and Stockholm, involve two separate vertical barriers which simply pull out of the way when you tap your card; I’ve never found them at all inconvenient, even when I’ve had large luggage with me.

  • By David, April 10, 2009 @ 9:56 am

    Having experienced fare gates in other cities (London, Paris, Santiago) I fully support their implementation in Vancouver. Most of the negative on this board is based on incorrect assumptions and lack of facts. Fare gates do not slow you down. In London, you insert your pass or ticket in to the fare gate, go through the gate and pick up your ticket on the other side. It’s fast.

    The London system requires you use your ticket to exit the station too. They do this because fare is decided on distance (zones). So if you go further than you paid, you cannot exist the system until you’ve paid the add-fare.

    Newer technology means you don’t even have to take your ticket out of your wallet or purse. The sensors on the gate detects the pass on you and lets you through.

    A big advantage is that people within the fare paid area are there to ride the trains, not beg or harasses other riders. It really does improve the sense of security (something still lacking on Skytrain).

    Good to see it finally happening.

  • By Dan B, April 10, 2009 @ 10:10 am

    @ David:

    Opposition to fare gates and smart cards arises out of the costs to implement the system. The money that TransLink would recoup from deterring fare evaders through the use of the gates wouldn’t come close to even covering the costs of installing them. These facts come from TransLink’s own studies. TransLink was against fare gates until yesterday.

    I could care less about what style of technology these gates would use. THe costs cannot be justified.

    And I wouldn’t use London as an example. Vancouver doesn’t even have 1 million people. Also, unless you have cages and bars like in New York, gates don’t deter the determined fare evaders. You’d still have to hire someone to monitor the gates. Conversely, why can European cities like Belin and Cologne have completely open systems that do so well? Why they have enough patrols to check tickets and they actually enforce the fines! Here, if people get a ticket, they never pay it. Also, in Germany, fines can be 400 euro. They’ll come after you if you don’t pay.

    That being said, according to independent studies and TransLink’s own reports, conclusions, and opinions up to yesterday, fare gates would cost more money in the long run.

    When you say “facts” David, speak of cost benefit, not ease of use. It is the former that counts, not the latter.

  • By Chris, April 10, 2009 @ 12:49 pm

    What a waste of money. Spend the $100 million on buying more buses.

  • By Reva, April 10, 2009 @ 5:38 pm

    I agree with Dan B — the opposition to installing the turnstiles is more about the cost than anything else. There are so many things our transit system desperately needs, but not nearly enough money to pay for it all right now. Until TransLink has more than enough money (not likely to happen anytime soon), all dollars spent should go strictly toward what the essential point of a transit system is: moving people from point A to point B. Things like turnstiles that are not 100% necessary (SkyTrain will still run whether or not it gets turnstiles) need to take a backseat to things like expanded service hours, improved service frequency, constructing the Evergreen Line, expanding bus & rapid transit in Surrey & the Fraser Valley, etc. etc.

  • By Cree, April 11, 2009 @ 2:32 am

    Does any major city have that combination of timed fare plus faregates? I would see a different implimentation of fare system upcoming; a one way fare system would work best including integration w/ bus and SkyTrain.

  • By Eugene Wong, April 11, 2009 @ 5:07 am

    Gates are silly, because fare evaders can use somebody else’s transfer. Also, fare evaders don’t make me feel unsafe. People who harass me are are violent will make me feel unsafe. The latter types of people can easily afford to pay for a ride.

  • By james m, April 14, 2009 @ 7:30 am

    I think one of the misconceptions is that translink gets the 100 million no matter what it does. This is not the case.

    Translink is only covering 30 million, with the rest from province and federal.

    What does this mean, they would only have 30 million to spend elsewhere. It is one of translink’s goals to transition to a distance based fare as opposed to zones. The only way to do this is with turnstyles of some sort. With translink spending only 30mil, if all the evaders paid (which I don’t think they would, but a number would) it would pay off in 5 years.

  • By Joe just Joe, April 14, 2009 @ 11:57 am

    The translink stats of roughly 3% fare evasion are dead wrong, and I am willing to prove that to any translink exec that wants to see. They can contact me. Other cities with much larger populations and riderships can use faregates w/o any issues don’t see why there are still some here that see it causing bottlenecks. It does not, look at the other cases, there are dozens to study. The one thing I will give you it that it won’t really improve security but only the illusion of increased security. It will though increase the moral of those that ride the system and are tired of knowing the trains are carrying lots of freeloaders.

  • By Robert, April 14, 2009 @ 1:37 pm

    Will Smartcards mean the end of monthly/annual passes? If so, how much more (or less) will a pass holder typically have to pay for a pay-as-you-go system?

  • By x, April 15, 2009 @ 9:16 am

    West Coast Express, Aqua bus, False Creek Ferries all use distance based fares and succesfully co-existed with Translinks monthly passes.

  • By Andy, April 15, 2009 @ 4:17 pm

    Just FYI… Vancouver metro area has over 2.1 million people (2006 data). It is about time…

  • By Dave Hughes, April 16, 2009 @ 2:59 pm

    What will this mean for UPass holders? Will the UPass be redesigned to include a smartcard, or will I have to get my pass out of my wallet every time I enter a skytrain station?

  • By Dave, April 16, 2009 @ 4:14 pm

    What about the yearly buspasses? How is this going to work for those people?

  • By Dan B, April 18, 2009 @ 4:30 pm

    @ Joe just Joe:

    I’ll give you entire countries that do just fine WITHOUT gates of any kind — and they have better service to boot! Let’s start with Germany. How is it that cities like Nuernberg can do just fine without them? Or Berlin? Or Frankfurt? Or the whole Deutsche Bahn system?!

    Please, no more offers by anonymous people offering to “prove” things to TransLink execs, especially by those who can’t grasp the basisc of Grade 11 Stat courses. Hearsay and personal observations are not scientific. I can “prove” that the moon landing if faked, because so and so said it. I can “prove” that 747 aeroplanes do not exist, because I haven’t flown on one. I can “prove” that all people of X group do “Y” thing, because my experiences (sample size) is limited.

    Enough of this.

  • By Dan B, April 18, 2009 @ 4:37 pm

    @ James M

    You make a good point, and I believe that adding distance-based fares is a worthwhile and equitable goal. However, I believe that the $70 million that the Province and Ottawa are handing-out could be better spent at this point in time on schools, fixing the hospitals, upgrading bus loops, etc. Of course, the same goes for that money they’re spending on the Gateway Project.

    Smart cards are not necessary for distance-based fares. The current magnetic card system can accommodate such a system, and without the use of gates. So can simple ticket-based systems. Again, I’ll point to the Deutsche Bahn as well as the various commuter systems throughout the world, with the WCE coming to mind.

    Of course, the sad caveat to the $70 million Prov/Fed handout is that the money will be lost forever if TransLink DOESN’T spend it on those pointless gates. Such is the way with grant appropriations.

  • By Mike M, April 18, 2009 @ 11:12 pm

    I have used Hong Kong’s smart card (Octopus Card) and found it very efficient. However, with the monthly pass I purchase presently, I can claim a federal tax credit. Will this be affected?

  • By X, April 19, 2009 @ 9:23 pm

    @Mike M

    Hello Mike, can you confirm that the Hong Kong transit system still does not take “transfers” like Vancouver’s system. If you get on a bus, you must pay for the entire route and not just the few stops you need before needing to pay
    again for another connecting bus’s entire route?

    Yes, I agree the Octopus card is efficient. It functions like debit cards we have here in North America retailers. Riders just slap their cards against a reader when boarding a bus (or turnstyle) and keep moving. I did hear initial
    complaints as residents were not comfortable with carrying “electronic wallets” with their famous pickpockets.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, April 21, 2009 @ 11:30 am

    Just wanted to answer the smartcard questions I saw in this thread.

    Robert: All passes currently in use for TransLink services, will be converted to smartcards. The fare structure in place at the time of implementation will be the same one used by the smartcard system.

    Dave Hughes: UPass users will receive smartcards with the relevant information encrypted on it that allows the users to enjoy the benefits of a UPass.

    Dave who asked about yearly passes: All passes currently in use for TransLink services, will be converted to smartcards.

    Mike M: TransLink will develop a process that provides users with the information necessary to claim the federal tax credit.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, April 21, 2009 @ 5:04 pm

    PS. I have been pestering our web staff like crazy to solve this email problem with the comments. It’s a really dumb ongoing issue and I am hoping we can get it solved soon! If anyone else has some WordPress expertise too and could help, that would be sincerely appreciated.

  • By Happy Rider now, April 27, 2009 @ 4:43 pm

    Finally! Like every other city in the world, we are having turn styles. I am in full support and it has been long overdue. The west coast has got to start behaving like an adult city – not a hippy, pot-smoking, getting a free ride. So many people here think they don’t have to pay and the rules don’t apply to them. THANK YOU Translink for doing the right thing.

  • By M Wong, June 21, 2009 @ 10:11 pm

    Finally, we get gates. For people who seem to think “gates” are these medieval lock and steel-bar type things, they HAVE improved in the last few decades. And in case people haven’t noticed in the past 20 years, the population of Vancouver has increased dramatically. The current pass system is ok, but its most certainly not the best. someone should check out other systems like Hong Kong or Singapore, Chicago, etc. From experience, you can even get more revenue by using the stations as commercial points (like 7-11s or bank branches, or even food outlets), renting out valuable real estate for high-volume stations. and someone should give Translink the right to own and develop land (even above major connection hubs). Look at the rest of the world, there are ideas everywhere, I don’t see the point of keeping the “oh don’t worry, everyone is particularly law-abiding and holds a ticket” mentality. It doesn’t work. If you find it using up your valuable time, then budget extra time for your route? I think that Translink is doing the right thing (even though I’ve read this post about 2 months after it was written)

  • By You don't say, October 9, 2009 @ 12:34 pm

    Translink claims to lose 3 million a year from fare evasion. So it’ll take us 33 years to recoup the cost. However, if the plan to get people to take more Skytrains and as the population grows out, we could conceivably recoup in a lesser time period.

    Of course if someone had thought ahead and put them in from the beginning, we wouldn’t be in this mess. A lot of the cost is just that the stations were never designed in mind for faregates.

    Frankly, the platforms and areas around them are just badly thought out, Translink needs to think more like a business. More stalls, stands and businesses at the stations to generate revenue. Let JapaDog go in there. :P

  • By Jimbo, December 17, 2009 @ 10:02 pm

    Fare recovery is NOT the only motivator for installing fare gates.

    Other cities have found that the people causing problems on the transit system are very often the ones that don’t have a transit ticket.

    Fare gates help reduce their numbers and that makes the system safer for all. And while that’s not a direct cost saving, it’s something worth paying for, I think.

    Not to mention that more paying customers would ride if they felt safer on the system.

    Also, fare gates aren’t supposed to be 100% effective in blocking evaders, they’d be too onerous if that was the case. They do, however, make it obvious as to who is evading paying the fare: they’re the one jumping over the fare gate. And hopefully Translink will have a plan to deal with this.

  • By Dee, January 19, 2010 @ 11:59 am

    More beaurocrats making decisions about things they know nothing about. The cost for these machines will never be recovered, and will have Translink b—-ing about how they need more money from gas taxes, property taxes, and fare increases to pay for their expenditures. This is about as brilliant as electronics being installed at bus stops, and the infamous B-line in Richmond where they spent millions to add time to our commute, then just bulldozed it all down in about 10 years to make way for the Canada Line. Brilliant minds at Translink? Yeah right. I think the common man has more brains in their pinky.

  • By Sam B., May 5, 2010 @ 11:28 pm

    I do question why the gates would cost 100 million to install and operate however I believe it’s about time they were installed.

    When Translink is a publicly funded company I questioned where tax money was going when they continue to ask for incrased moolah for the same services. This now takes away the number one arguement that people simply aren’t paying for services.

    I work a blue collar job along with about 80 other people where transit comes up quite often. I can say from experience that my middle class customers will readily admit they won’t pay for transit unless they have to take a bus.

    Everyone’s got an opinion whether right or wrong. I’m not going to yell the loudest but I’m sure Translink has done the research and balanced the long term benefits out of cost vs income. To all those people complaining about the extended wait times having to que … 1. I’m sure it’s not going to be as bad as you think. 2. Leave the 5 minutes earlier if you’re that concerned. This isn’t going to be an hour onto your commute.

    Maybe with all the extra income they’ll finally be receiving (that with the downtown parking prices and increased meter parking times) they can finally look to offer services to those weekend warriors that are out drinking until 3 am (when the bars close for those that haven’t gone out). Considering cabs won’t take people from the burbs more than 20 blocks away from their starting point (yea yea I know it’s illegal but it happens all the time)

    Let’s hope they start offering 24 hour service, whether it be bus or skytrain. I mean common, not even an hourly service in the wee hours of the morning?

  • By Freeloaders Suck, August 5, 2010 @ 10:37 pm

    Finally a community that cares….

  • By ???, December 27, 2010 @ 11:35 pm

    Here’s a recent breakdown on the problem….

Other Links to this Post

  1. re:place Magazine — April 10, 2009 @ 1:58 pm

  2. The Buzzer blog » Smartcards and faregates project moves one step forward — December 17, 2009 @ 3:16 pm

  3. The Buzzer blog » Three companies shortlisted for our smartcards and faregates project — May 28, 2010 @ 3:06 pm

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