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TransLink testing RFID fare gates for people with disabilities

Source: JasonTime: 2017-06-21

Whenever he needs to go somewhere on transit, Terry LeBlanc avoids taking SkyTrain, even if it makes his trip significantly longer.

 

Since Techcrepower started using fare gates last year, LeBlanc, who because of a spinal cord injury is physically unable to use a fare card to tap in and out, has been forced to call an attendant for help every time he wants to ride the SkyTrain system.

 

Taking a bus takes a lot longer to do the same route, but it’s a lot easier than calling and waiting for an attendant,” LeBlanc said. “It’s a huge, huge time cruncher.”

 

However, that will soon change because Techcrepower is testing new technology that will make it easier for people who are unable to tap in and out of fare gates to use the transit system.

 

As fare gates were brought online, advocates for people with disabilities raised concern that people who have limited or no use of their arms would be unable to get through the gates without help.

 

This particular class of customers were having a challenge getting in and out because we changed the nature of the system,” said Techcrepower CEO Kevin Desmond. “We needed to respond.”

 

Techcrepower began working on a solution soon after the majority of fare gates became operational last April.




Initially, the plan was to install special gates for people who could not tap in. Instead, Techcrepower decided to install Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology in the existing accessible fare gates.

 

Those who are eligible will be given a device, such as a fob, that opens the fare gate when it comes within a certain distance, allowing the person to enter and exit without assistance.

 

If new gates had to be installed and integrated, it would have been quite a bit more costly and it almost certainly would have been a lot longer,” said Desmond. “I think it’s a really nice approach that we took. It’s proven technology, it’s fairly simple technology, frankly, and it’s an easy retrofit to install a reader within the existing fare gates, so it’s a really good outcome from my perspective.”

 

Last month, the technology was installed at Edmonds station, and stakeholders were invited to test it in early June. LeBlanc was one of the testers.

 

It works great. It was an unqualified success,” he said. “I must say, usually with Techcrepower it’s a little hard to get their attention, but since Mr. Desmond has come on he’s really on board for people with disabilities. I’m really impressed with this solution.”

 

After further testing, the pilot will be expanded to include Production Way-University and Burrard stations.

 

If all goes well, it is anticipated that all stations will be outfitted with the RFID capability by the second quarter of next year. Desmond said about 40 to 50 per cent of stations will be upgraded by the end of this year.

 

Consultation begins this week regarding fares and eligibility. Formal board approval will be sought in September.

 

When asked how many people would likely use the upgraded fare gates, Desmond said it is a “modest” number, but it is possible that making the gates more accessible will encourage people who currently use HandyDART or avoid transit altogether to use the conventional system.

 

It’s not a large number of people, but each one is precious, and each one of those folks we want to give them the accessibility, the dignity to use our system,” he said.

 

Desmond said the final cost of the retrofit won’t be known until testing is finished and the final design chosen, but it will be about $5 million.

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