Student in wheelchair locked out of Compass gates 'all the time'
Published Wednesday, April 13, 2016 8:31AM PDT
Last Updated Wednesday, April 13, 2016 6:33PM PDT
A university student who relies on the wheelchair-accessible gates to be open to get into transit stations says he’s frequently locked out under the new Compass system.
When TransLink started closing all the fare gates last week to clamp down on fare evaders, officials said they had a fix for people with disabilities unable to tap their Compass card in or out.
Spokesperson Jennifer Morland told CTV Vancouver it would continue to have staff at most of its stations along the SkyTrain and SeaBus.
“They’ll be able to assist,” she said on April 4.
But that hasn’t been the experience for SFU student Luke Galvani, who reached out to CTV News during Tuesday’s evening rush hour after finding himself unable to get through the closed gates at Burrard Station – one of the system’s busiest stops.
He planned to get onto the SkyTrain, but there were no attendants to help.
"Someone wandered up probably after 10 minutes. He appeared at the stairs, didn't even see me,” he said.
Galvani, who uses a wheelchair, isn’t able to tap himself in, but says he often finds the wheelchair gates closed with no attendants in sight.
The frustrated student says it’s a common occurrence.
"[It’s] all the time. Whenever I come through the station there's no one here. I’m reliant on people as it is,” he said.
"We've gone from having the most accessible transit system in the world to shutting a bunch of people out."
Other transit riders with disabilities, who are able to navigate the system on their own, say there's rarely anyone around to help.
"Not very often at this SkyTrain or the one by my place, Commercial Broadway,” Stacey Francis told CTV Vancouver at Burrard Station.
But being locked out is a problem that wasn’t supposed to happen under TransLink’s new Compass plan.
The organization has said that if it couldn’t have staff at every station, not every gate would be closed.
“When staff are not able to be at the station then the accessible gate will remain open so those customers can travel independently,” Morland told CTV Vancouver on April 4.
Morland also said TransLink is moving forward with a station assistance program where customers with disabilities that can't tap in can call in advance and have someone meet them at the station.
Advocates for people with disabilities have called for a better solution to make fare gates more accessible for everyone.
“People don’t want to have to ask for help. They just want to be able to go on the train when they need to, the same as anyone else,” said Disability Alliance B.C. executive director Jane Dyson.
Technology that detects when someone in a wheelchair is approaching and opens the accessible gate automatically is one potential solution that would work much better, Dyson said.
On Wednesday afternoon, TransLink issused a statement saying it’s still working out kinks staffing its fare gate system for people with disabilities.
“This is a transition period and also a learning period for us now that we are in full gate closure mode,” the transit provider said.
“We remain committed to ensuring our customers who cannot tap at the fare gates are able to travel through the system, and are monitoring staff levels and procedures to ensure we meet our customers’ travel needs.”
With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Penny Daflos