Idle SkyTrain fare gates held up as example of TransLink ineptitude by critics

WATCH:  The Compass program is held up by the ‘no’ side as an example of TransLink ineptitude in the plebiscite campaign. Keith Baldrey reports.

For many commuters, the fare gates that sit idle at SkyTrain stations serve as daily reminders of TransLink’s reputation for less than stellar financial management. The fare gates and Compass Card system were promised to be working years ago and still no one knows when they’ll be up and running.

“The fare gates were imposed on TransLink by then Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon and [then Premier] Gordon Campbell and they did that through an unelected, unaccountable board that they also imposed on TransLink,” said NDP TransLink critic George Heyman. “So that’s where I lay the blame for the fare gates and the Compass Cards.”
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The budget for the Compass system has almost doubled, from $100 million to almost $200 million. Still, local mayors are confident they will eventually be operational.

“We expect that that Compass will actually enhance the service, and make it more fluid, make it easier for people to get around using one card,” said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. “It’s been a challenging roll-out for TransLink.”

READ MORE: New transit plebiscite poll shows ‘No’ side with early advantage

And the mayors point out Vancouver isn’t the only transit system experiencing these kinds of problems with fare gates.

“Calgary is two years behind, for example,” said Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore. “Montreal is having the same challenges. It’s a challenge that I think TransLink is trying to deal with and it’s very intimate because it affects the 1.3 million boardings that happen a day.”

Meanwhile, the ‘Yes’ side has to hope those daily reminders of something that is proving even more expensive but still isn’t working don’t push people to the ‘No’ side in the plebiscite debate.

-With files from Keith Baldrey