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Smartcard and faregates project moves another step forward

The Octopus Card in action in Hong Kong. Photo by Danny Choo.

Just a note to say that our smartcard and faregates project has moved another step forward. We’ve already asked qualified suppliers to present themselves; now we’re asking them for specific proposals to install the system.

Full details are in the media release issued today. Here’s a quote:

TransLink has issued a formal Request for Proposals to three pre-qualified companies to submit bids to design, install, operate and maintain the planned Smart Card and Faregate system.

Thales/Octopus International Projects, developers of Hongkong’s “Octopus” card, Serco/Parkeon, which introduced a complete smart card system for Perth, Australia, and Cubic/IBM, makers of the “Oyster” card in London, England, were chosen in May out of 10 companies, which had responded to TransLink’s Request for Qualifications. Now, these three companies have been asked to draw up their proposals to create the Smart Card/Faregate system, have it in operation by spring 2013 and operate and maintain it for ten years.

Technical submissions are due by October 20th and financial submissions by late November. TransLink staff will make a recommendation on the preferred proponent to the Board in December.


  • By Brandon, July 9, 2010 @ 5:38 pm

    Smart cards yes…faregates no. Smartcards would get rid of the antiquated zone system but faregates will do little to enhance the system. Paris Metro is gated and is rife with fare evaders. Parts of the London system don’t use faregates…and none of Berlin uses faregates.

  • By Langdon, July 9, 2010 @ 5:52 pm

    Good to see an update on Smartcard and faregates project. I wouldn’t really want to pay $3.75 when riding SkyTrain from Patterson to Joyce.

    But what about other stuffs? Evergreen Line? Is that going to be built or not? I heard that Translink cannot make any service expansions before 2013. Why is that? And where do all our money go?

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, July 9, 2010 @ 6:36 pm

    Langdon: Well, the Evergreen Line project is managed by the province (here’s their website), so any updates on that will generally come from the province, and not from us. The funding situation for the Line continues to be unclear: we are meant to contribute funding to that, but it’s not clear where that money will come from, as we only have so many funding sources (fares, fuel tax, property tax, etc.)

    Check this page on the website for more information about the proposed 2011 10-Year transportation plan, our plan for the upcoming year. The focus for 2011 is to maintain what we have and examine our system for efficiencies. Which doesn’t mean that expansion will never happen ever again — only that next year it’s not the planned primary focus. The plan is yet to be approved by our board and the Mayor’s Council, however, so you never know, there may still be some adjustments.

    For some background as to where our money goes: we did receive a large funding increase of $130 million last year to maintain our current services. Since 2005, we had been expanding our services greatly, but by 2010 we were expecting to hit a large deficit due to the cost of maintaining that expanded system, unless that $130 million was provided. So we don’t really have more money for expansion at this point: to continue expanding, we would need to raise more money via increased property taxes, fares, or other funding mechanisms that are available to us.

    Does that help? There is a lot of good background information in our Transport 2040 document too:

  • By ;-), July 9, 2010 @ 10:00 pm

    If I get an Octopus wins…. will the cards here also work in Hong Kong?

    Any idea why Esso’s Speedpass was excluded?

  • By Jacob, July 9, 2010 @ 10:29 pm

    Octopus is good. Are there still going to be monthly passes? How are the expo line stations going to be upgraded?

  • By Shane, July 9, 2010 @ 11:53 pm

    As long as projects keep advancing next year, I’m okay with TransLink taking a year off from expansion to put a strong magnifying glass on efficiency. But, a year should be enough. in 2012 – let’s get building again where we need to.

    The smart cards are great – I’d like to see them usable for many other purposes across Metro. But, faregates I just don’t understand…I could be convinces, but I’d rather see the money spent on SERVICE.

  • By Cliff, July 10, 2010 @ 12:37 am

    If these cards are going to be used in other places like HK’s Octopus, I then wonder if it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to use MasterCard’s PayPass technology as an alternative.

    Is RFID a requirement for this or will chip cards that require insertion be in the running?

  • By klparrot, July 10, 2010 @ 1:25 am

    While I’m not opposed to the smartcards, I am against faregates, and I’m glad to see I’m not the only one.

    Have any studies shown they would save money or improve safety? From what I understand, studies suggest the additional fare recovery wouldn’t actually cover the cost of the gates, but Kevin Falcon didn’t believe them and forced this on TransLink. Now that he’s no longer Transportation Minister, has the pressure from the government eased?

    Without faregates, stations are more efficient and welcoming, and staffing isn’t an issue. Vancouver is certainly not the only place without them, either; for example, the U-Bahn systems in many German cities have no gates. They have plainclothes police officers checking tickets, though, and a better system for recovering fines. Maybe we could work on that here instead of faregates?

  • By ???, July 10, 2010 @ 6:11 am

    Bring on the gates….. especially at stations where the evasion is higher. The gates should also not let you out of the station until you’ve paid…..

    We also need a solution too keep people from sneaking on the rear doors that are not designated BLines.

  • By klparrot, July 10, 2010 @ 9:26 am

    What’s wrong with “sneaking on” at the rear doors on a regular route if you have proof of payment? It’s more efficient boarding. And on the B-lines, there’s no guarantee that people getting on at the rear doors have proof of payment, either. The B-lines may need more spot enforcement, but I don’t think the buses or SkyTrain need technical solutions which are just going to cost money and decrease convenience.

    I’m sure this would be politically impossible, but U-pass for everyone, effectively eliminating fares and rolling all transit costs into taxes, would render the fare enforcement problem moot, while giving a boost to ridership that would justify significantly increased service, making transit a much more appealing option, which would again increase ridership, etc.. Tell me that’s not at least a bit intriguing.

  • By ericmk, July 10, 2010 @ 10:29 am

    I have a question about the smartcards: Are these cards meant to be used by those who take transit frequently (like us) or would they also work for those taking one trip or visitors? I know when SmarTrip on the DC metro became the only way to pay for the parking garages there, many visitors were not happy because they had to pay $5 for a permanent card they would never use again plus the money they needed for parking. While I’m not concerned about the parking garages here, are these smartcards going to replace the standard fare card that you can throw away after your trip? Will visitors have to pay extra for a solution intended for frequent users? Or is it somehow set up for both frequent users and casual users? Sorry for the long question, but it’s been bugging me since the faregates and smartcards were proposed!

  • By andrew k, July 10, 2010 @ 5:52 pm

    i recently went to LA, and they have something called a tap-pass
    the plus side was how fast it made boarding for people that had them and you could buy day-passes or monthly passes on any bus
    but there was definitely still fare evasion on the metro trains (even with the gates)
    so i wouldn’t mind having smart cards
    regarding klparrot’s post, i’m not sure that zero fare transit idea would go over too well with people that don’t use transit…

  • By Sally, July 10, 2010 @ 9:41 pm

    Would be nice to see a contest open to local teens/20-somethings to come up with the design for the smartcard!

  • By Cliff, July 10, 2010 @ 11:15 pm

    There are actually only a few stations that in my opinion require gates limiting access. Those are stations in trouble areas and high traffic stations.

    Expo Line – Waterfront-Broadway, Metrotown, New Westminster-King George

    Millennium Line – Lougheed, Brentwood, Commercial

    Evergreen Line – Burquitlam, Coquitlam Central

    Canada Line – Brighouse, Bridgeport, Marine Drive, Oakridge, Broadway-Waterfront

    West Coast Express – Waterfront, Coquitlam Central

    At all other stations, tap on-tap off is all that’s needed. Failure to tap off at any station simply has the system bill you the maximum possible fare with any negative balance being deducted from a deposit paid when the card was purchased. Additionally, it should always be possible to exit, regardless of fare paid. Enforcement really ought to be done when a passenger enters the system.

    By having the system set up in such a manner, less money is spent, but the results should largely be the same. Of course, the bottom line is that all this is largely a feel good project with a gated system never recovering the money wasted due to fare evasion. The good side effect, from all this, however, is a much more fair and equitable fare structure than the one in place now.

  • By ???, July 10, 2010 @ 11:43 pm

    I too don’t like the idea of zero-fares….. driver salaries are one of the biggest costs operating a transit system. Even if the entire system was operated by driverless trains, people need to operate and maintain it. Transit operators deserve fair and livable wage. Not paying your fare denies them of this opportunity.

    Today’s Canada Line and Skytrain are over capacity during rush hour. To make it free like klparrot’s Hasselt 13 fold ridership increase would be disastrous like on opening day (remember Jhen’s photo of the Waterfront lineup?) or the Olympics. Many will reach for their car keys saying the buses are full. They will not tolerate a 30 or 90 minute line up.

    We already pay one of the highest taxes in Canada, as well as the world…. Are you sure you want to increase local taxes further as many salaries are already frozen for the last decade. Many are already demanding lower taxes as cost of living is already so high. Tax payers are already asking for “user pay” to justify the expense.

    Using the rear doors of the bus may be efficient for you, but it creates a lot of confusion as to whether you have paid your fare or not. It encourages others (tourists) to use the rear doors when they are not. It delays the bus from departing as drivers occasionally requests people to exit the bus. It slows people trying to exit the bus, as there is a bunch of idiots stand outside the rear doors trying to get on and forcing the doors open, when they should be closed. No this is not “efficient”.

  • By Alex2000, July 12, 2010 @ 5:09 pm

    Go Octopus card go!

    A decade of success in Hong Kong has to count for something .
    If they get the contract, it would be smart for Translink to keep the Octopus name for the card. With so many HK ex-pats in Vancouver, the Octopus name has high name recognition.

  • By Ric, July 12, 2010 @ 9:07 pm

    I vote for the octopus card. It is the most convenient. I also hope that if the octopus card wins the cards purchased in Hong Kong will work here and vise versa.

    I think that if we get the octopus card the program should expand to allow us to use the card for purchases at convenience stores, fast food restaurants, pay for parking etc.

    BTW, if we get a smart card program will the U pass program still be available or will it be replaced by the smart card?

  • By Chris Mackenzie, July 26, 2010 @ 11:58 pm

    I’m glad the faregates or turnstilles are actually going to be built. Call me a selfish discriminator if you want, but I really don’t like riding beside non-productive tax eating stinky dirty drug junkie who rides for free and never pays off violation tickets. I’m guessing once the gates are put in, jumping over them would become an arrestable criminal trespassing offence and the GVTAPS would be able to really make the system safer not having to babysit the entrances anymore.

  • By Jason, February 10, 2011 @ 12:43 pm

    I’m glad fare gates will be installed.

    I don’t get how some people think fare gates and smartcards don’t go hand in hand. One requires the other to operate.

    What is the point of having smart cards if there’s no fare gates?

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, February 10, 2011 @ 12:46 pm

    Jason: Well, technically speaking, you don’t actually need a gate mechanism in order to have a smartcard system. You definitely need a touch point to tap the card into when you access the transit system, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a gate has to be part of that touch point. So smartcard systems without gates can be done — but yes, our system will be including a gate mechanism when it is implemented in 2013.

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