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Smartcards and faregates project moves one step forward

Smartcards will eventually replace all forms of tickets and passes on our system.

Smartcards will eventually replace all forms of tickets and passes on our system.

Here’s an update on the smartcards and faregates project announced in April.

Our board has given approval to get the procurement process for the project underway. We’ll be issuing a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for the project this month, followed by a Request for Proposals (RFP) in the spring of 2010. Work is expected to be underway in 2010, with the new system operational in 2013.

If you don’t know, smartcards are a type of fare payment used in many transit systems worldwide. You typically get a credit-card-sized card that you can charge money to, then you swipe the card over electronic readers when you enter/exit the transit system. Faregates are planned for our SkyTrain and SeaBus systems to complement the smartcard system.

The whole project is a joint partnership between the Government of Canada, British Columbia and Translink. The Province is investing up to $40 million and the Government of Canada has agreed in principal to commit up to $30 million to a maximum of one-third of eligible costs in this project. TransLink will fund the balance of the project; the project budget is $171 million.

Check out the full press release for more details!


  • By cree, December 17, 2009 @ 3:22 pm

    I hope this means a whole new faresystem. the end of 90 minute transfers draws near.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, December 17, 2009 @ 3:56 pm

    Well, I’m not sure about 90 minute transfers being on the chopping block, but there are definite rumblings about changing the fare structure once smartcards are implemented, especially to deal with the zone issues.

  • By Rider, December 17, 2009 @ 4:00 pm

    Yay, one step closer to tracking all system riders, and assuming everyone is an illegal fare-evader until proven otherwise — spending more revenue to implement than will be saved in caught fare-evaders.

    Solution in need of a problem, anyone?

  • By David, December 17, 2009 @ 4:44 pm

    Smart cards will help make the system more fair and I welcome them. Joyce to Metrotown shouldn’t cost more than Joyce to Waterfront.

    I worry that the cost of going from Joyce to Waterfront will rise to cover the “lost” revenue, but we can hope not.

    Gates, on the other hand, are definitely a solution looking for a problem. Looking at the rest of the world proves that they do not enhance safety or reduce fare evasion, but they’re going to cost a lot of money to install and maintain.

    TransLink has some of the lowest fare evasion in the world already so there’s little to be gained even from a perfect system that forced everyone to pay.

  • By Dan Udey, December 17, 2009 @ 4:46 pm

    I dunno Rider, a lot of modern transit systems employ distance-based fees (rather than zone-based) – swipe when you get on, swipe when you get off, and you get billed for the distance. Compare that to paying $2.50 to go from Waterfront to Burrard or Waterfront to Joyce.

    Some days I just want to get from Davie St. to W 1st. Not having to pay $2.50 for the trip (vs. braving the icy wind) would be another great benefit.

    Lastly, Translink has talked about implementing a system where riders that are on transit during a transit disruption will automatically be credited (because now Translink can tell you were there). They can also add capacity because they know how far people are travelling typically, and where people are coming from.

    Vancouver’s the only city I’ve ever been to where mass transit is ungated. Is it really so bad for us to do what the rest of the world has been doing for decades? Do you have a problem with having to show your pass when you get on the bus?

    I, for one, welcome this project.

  • By Dan, December 17, 2009 @ 5:14 pm

    I do hope for sure that the faregates that would be installed are going to be those automatic ones that open up themselves. Turnstiles seems to be obsolete.

  • By klparrot, December 17, 2009 @ 6:53 pm

    Don’t we have better things that we could be doing with that money? Personally, I like the idea of trusting people to pay their fare, and even if that doesn’t work out 100% of the time, haven’t studies shown that faregates would cost more than they’d save?

    In addition to capital costs, faregates will have higher operating costs. You’ll need someone at every station throughout operating hours in case someone can’t get the gate to work for them.

    I don’t believe that the argument of improved safety holds any water. I doubt there’s any significant between fare evasion and other crime.

    Why, when we’ve moved to a proof-of-payment system on buses, would we go the opposite direction with the trains?

    As for the argument that everywhere else has faregates, that’s not true. For example, there are several cities in Germany that have extensive metro systems without faregates. I imagine there are other examples as well.

    Although faregates and smartcards would make it easier to charge distance-based fares, has a distance-based fare system been fully thought out? While the zone system isn’t perfect, it’s at least easy to understand and implement. Even though a distance-based fare system might be great for the SkyTrain, I don’t see how that could possibly integrate well with the bus fares, and the buses are a major part of the system, not just feeders to SkyTrain.

  • By Sungsu, December 17, 2009 @ 8:48 pm

    They just need to check fares more often so that the common perception is “why do they check so often; everyone seems to have a fare” instead of the current “they never check fares so everyone must be cheating.”

  • By Henry A., December 17, 2009 @ 9:15 pm

    Can the use of the future smart card system be expanded to buy selected items at selected shops like the Hong Kong’s octopus card system? That’ll be really great (esp Starbucks, Blenz, Jugo Juice and among others), given our high density of our population and high proportion of transit users.

  • By Kev, December 18, 2009 @ 3:01 am

    Finally! The current system is so backward!

  • By Jimbo, December 18, 2009 @ 9:16 am

    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 safety isn’t a directly quantifiable 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 pretty obvious as to who it that isn’t paying the fare: they’re the one hopping over the fare gate. And that’s a lot easier than checking every single person’s ticket in rush hour. Hopefully Translink will have a plan to deal with these non-paying scofflaws.

  • By Gordon, December 18, 2009 @ 9:43 am

    When the smartcard system is implemented will there be card readers at all doors ?

    Will this allow all door loading on all buses?

  • By Brandon, December 18, 2009 @ 10:36 am

    Translink is installing fare gates at a cost of roughly $171million not including yearly operations. Translink fare evasion is roughly 2.5% (2008) or just over $6million/year. Does this make sense to anyone?

    Let’s spend $100 to get back $2.

  • By Warren, December 18, 2009 @ 11:21 am

    Anybody who believes the “studies” on fare evasion is lying to themselves. How many times have you seen people turning around or avoiding the Skytrain once they see that staff are checking fares at the top of the stairs, etc. Besides which, nobody pays the fines anyway. Lets just do what we can (faregates) to make sure everybody on the train has paid their fair share.

    This system will aid in the perception of safety and fairness, which can’t be overestimated. Furthermore this will give Translink an excellent idea of travel patterns, usage, etc.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, December 18, 2009 @ 11:34 am

    Dan: They won’t be turnstiles: we’re consistently using the word “faregates” because turnstiles are not going to be the type of gate used.

  • By Ivan, December 18, 2009 @ 11:53 am

    I wonder how to people pay by distance on the bus – what if someone forgot to tag out(prox out) when ending their trip, or worse yet, cheat the system by proxing/tagging early, and stay on the bus longer?

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, December 18, 2009 @ 11:59 am

    Ivan: Well, I don’t know how ours will be implemented, but with the Oyster card in London UK, if you forget to tag out, the system will tag you out itself after a certain time period and it will charge you the maximum fare amount.

  • By David, December 18, 2009 @ 12:09 pm

    Another possible outcome is that installation of fare gates will reduce the budget for staff. That would make the system less safe because a police officer can remove people with outstanding warrants, but a fare gate can’t.

    Oh and it’s really easy to get through a fare gate without paying, especially when the system is moderately busy.

    Open drain, pour in more money, raise fares and taxes to compensate.

  • By David M, December 18, 2009 @ 12:17 pm

    I’m all for the smart card – glad to see that implemented.

    I’m out on faregates. The sense of being safer on a system with faregates is more to do with the volume of people using the system.

    London Underground feels safer – well maybe it’s the fact the each station has a visible station manager, staff are present and CCTV cameras are everywhere.

    I felt safe in Santiago, Chile – but then the trains were crowded night and day – so I don’t think the fare gates had anything to do with my feeling safer.

    Frankfurt am Main I felt totally safe on the U-bahn. Again, it was busy day and night. And there were absolutely no fare gates.

    So would it be better to just hire more staff and have them at every entrance and random check at all hours – so what if those who don’t want to pay turn back, isn’t that the intent of a fare gate?

    One drawback to faregates is they will slow traffic.

  • By drew86, December 18, 2009 @ 1:57 pm

    great news to hear. if they are implementing this to skytrains and seabuses, they might as well add buses to the list. Otherwise, it would be very inconvenient for transit users to use a smart card in one hand and then use monthly passes, fare savers, or pay in cash when hopping on a bus. Translink should follow Hong Kong’s success with the Octopus card system

  • By Cliff, December 18, 2009 @ 2:02 pm

    The problem isn’t so much the short distances, and the large fares associated with them. It’s about giving travelers in further out a better deal.

    As it is, they pay more than everyone else to get to Vancouver. During Rush Hour, the smart cards could allow someone in Coquitlam or Langley to only pay $3, but someone going from Granville to Main would pay $2.

    In off peak times, fares could change so that people are encouraged to take transit for short trips like most intra city trips, but fares could be nudged a little higher in other places where people would be likely to use their cars anyway.

    People in Vancouver are going to use transit no matter what. And, let’s face it, folks in Yaletown or the West side aren’t exactly hurting for money. Fares that begin and end there could be charged a premium, similar if they traveled the full length.

    It’s about smart pricing so that current ridership isn’t lost, but new ridership is gained in areas that suffered previously.

    After all, it’s a little ridiculous that someone in Zone 3 actually saves money by buying a WCE pass instead of a monthly fare card. That alone should indicate there’s something a little wrong with our fare structure.

  • By 6 of one, half a dozen..., December 18, 2009 @ 11:27 pm

    klparrot, you don’t need staff present at every station. Some issues can be resolved via closed circuit camera and an intercom/dedicated phone for riders to contact staff, plus there will be more than one gate for people to pass through while a technician is dispatched.

  • By cree, December 19, 2009 @ 1:06 am

    One thing to note if the entire transit infrastructure is going to use distance-based fares, is just that, it has to be used throughout the entire system, not just limited to the SkyTrain Lines.

    For this to work on buses, there has to be some compromise in place since the current fleet aren’t retrofitted to properly handle a distance-based fare-system. extensive research for this issue needs to be handled.

    it’ll be easier to implement on the SkyTrain lines. However, on some Expo Line trains passengers are able to exit through the emergency exits (eg Nanaimo Sta, Metrotown, and pre-reno Broadway Sta come to mind).

    3 years is a ways away, but use all that time to really make the entire transit system run well with a new fare system.

  • By Erika, December 19, 2009 @ 10:42 pm

    Indeed, it WOULD cost us more to implement and maintain faregates than we actually lose in evasion (TransLink knows this), despite some PR that suggests the opposite. I think the “sense of security” is just perception and PR again. Just having personnel there helps. Besides, much of the violence happens OUTSIDE of the Fare Paid area. I certainly feel safer on the platform than on the street outside some stations and fare gates will not change that.

    There are less costly ways of ensuring people feel safe. In fact, in Europe the real troublemakers don’t mind paying a couple bucks to get through. (Petty thieves for example will easily make back the $2.50.) As for fare evasion, the detection rate is 3%, not 10% or higher. (Province news item: “This year, transit cops checked 374,000 people and handed out 11,500 tickets for fare evasion.”) The penalty is too low for TransLink to really benefit and I don’t believe it actually goes in their coffers?

    See for some hard facts and discussion.

  • By klparrot, December 23, 2009 @ 12:06 am

    @Mark, your post was incredibly offensive, and I can only hope it was an attempt at satire.

    It must be very trying for you to go about your life in this world where not everyone is up to your lofty standards. I hope that in time you’ll come to realize that money doesn’t make the man.

    Oh, and by the way, I’m a frequent flyer, and I do not in fact favor faregates on transit.

  • By TheWorkingPoor, December 23, 2009 @ 8:39 am

    I can understand Mark’s satire. But when one group of people struggle to make a living each day. Pay nearly nearly $100 for a month pass (more if you travel multi-zone or WCE), for the priviledge (I almost forgot about the fees and taxes for Translink funding). Only to see another group ride without paying, it just doesn’t seem fair.

    See it often enough and people just want to revolt.

  • By zack, December 23, 2009 @ 10:16 am

    Oh boy, here we go again. I completely disagree with Mark’s offensive post. @Mark: The fact that you’re comparing people who are struggling in the cold with no adequate food,shelter,or money to pay for transit to those who are a security threat is completely distasteful.

  • By MB, January 2, 2010 @ 1:15 am

    The transit fare system in Tokyo works well. It is calculated by distance on both buses and trains/subways. Most of the bus companies have you enter through the rear door at which point you scan your card (or swipe). When you exit, you do so from the front of the bus and scan infront of the driver. If you dint scan properly the driver can override and enter the amount to be deducted.

    The cards there work well because you can use them on the type of bus I just described, or on the set price buses, or trains. They used to be company specific but have since integrated to include various companies and forms of transit. Like the Hong Kong example, you can also use the recgargeble type of card to make purchases in stores and restaurants.

    If you are purchasinga card for a child, you can buy the monetary amount cards (such as $10) which offer a bonus amount much like our books of bus tickets.

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