Low-income seniors and people with disabilities who have the provincially subsidized BC Bus Pass will also be issued a Compass card, giving them unlimited use of the Metro Vancouver transit system, even if they live outside the region.
About 80,000 pass holders who live within the TransLink area previously got Compass cards that give them continued unlimited transit access, but the provincial government says it is now mailing Compass cards to 18,000 other BC Bus Pass users who live elsewhere in B.C.
Most of the use is expected to be by pass holders in outlying regions like the Fraser Valley or Vancouver Island who come to Metro for medical appointments or to visit family.
Sunday’s announcement came as TransLink begins closing all fare gates this week, requiring Compass cards or tickets to board SkyTrain. Bus transfers and FareSavers no longer work.
By Friday, all gates at the 50 SkyTrain and Seabus stations are to generally be kept closed, ending the practice in recent weeks of keeping one gate open at each station to ensure access for people with disabilities.
TransLink has promised to instead staff most of the stations at peak times and keep a gate open when staff can’t be present to assist those in specialized wheelchairs who can’t tap in themselves.
Spokesperson Jennifer Morland said there may be larger numbers of stations with a gate left open at night when there are fewer staff on shift.
This week marks the final step in the Compass card rollout, which went over budget and was repeatedly delayed due to performance problems.
SkyTrain stations had been ungated since the original Expo Line opened in 1985, leading to recurring concerns over the years about fare evasion and security on the system.
Morland said the vast majority of passengers arriving at gated stations Monday morning already had Compass cards and staff only had to assist relatively small numbers with buying Compass tickets from vending machines.
The first stations to be gated Monday included Lougheed, as well as a few other stations in Burnaby, New Westminster and on the Canada Line.
“Each day we’ll be adding an additional 10 stations,” Morland said. “By Friday all of the stations will have closed gates.”
About 750,000 transit users now have Compass cards.
TransLink won’t lose fare revenue from extending more Compass access to holders of BC Bus Passes, which cost eligible seniors $45 a year. The provincial government is to absorb any increased costs.
The Compass card addition is separate from the change to the transit pass policy for people on provincial disability assistance that takes effect Sept. 1. The monthly disability payment, currently $906 for a single person, rises by $77 a month. A $52 per month charge takes effect for people who opt to continue to receive monthly passes for unlimited transit use.