As city and transit officials work to find solutions to curb social disorder on Calgary’s LRT line, one city councillor wants to explore a change to how Calgarians pay to ride on city transit.
Ward 13 Coun. Dan McLean wants to look at how much it would cost to implement turnstiles at CTrain stations outside the downtown free fare zone, similar to Vancouver’s SkyTrain.
“It would be able to just not allow people free access on and off, on and off,” McLean told Global News. “That’s what I think would decrease some of the behaviors that we’re seeing on the transit system right now.”
A turnstile system, also known as a closed system, restricts access to the transit network until riders pay for their fare.
Calgary currently operates with a proof-of-payment system, where access to the platform isn’t contingent on paying a fare. Instead, riders must be able to provide proof they paid when asked by officials.
It comes after Calgary Transit was forced to close indoor access to four stations earlier this year due to gatherings and “social disorder.”
McLean plans to ask city administration about costs and implementation of a turnstile system at Tuesday’s city council meeting.
“This is something completely new and I think it will be well worth the effort and the money to pilot this program,” McLean said. “Just give some people some security that they can ride the train and be much safer.”
McLean said a formal proposal to pilot turnstiles at some LRT stations could come after he gets more information from city administration.
A 2014 Calgary Transit study pegged the cost of moving to a turnstile system for the LRT system at $400 million.
Transit officials told Global News that figure would need to be updated to factor in inflation and new technologies.
But those figures could be accurate, according to Willem Klumpenhouwer, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto’s Transit Analytics Lab.
“Putting in these gates is costly. They cost money to build,” he said. “You have to reorganize the stations, stations need more space.
“When you have these gates, you need to slow down operations because people have to go through this system, they have to interact with this machine.
“I can’t see a cost effective argument for these gates.”
Klumpenhouwer, who studies transit performance, operations and data analytics, said he has several concerns with the turnstile system, including it’s practicality and it’s impact on equity in the city.
Cllr McLean has asked about this cost before. He knows the answer. Fare skipping isn’t an issue on #yyctransit
The $400M to ‘make transit safer’ could be much wiser invested in housing and social investments.
— Kourtney Penner (@kourtpenner) May 7, 2022
“People can pay fares and still do things on transit that make people uncomfortable. So it doesn’t seem like it’s a real, actual solution to what the problem is,” he said. “(It) seems like you’re just stopping unhoused people and other vulnerable people from being able to use the system.”
Calgary Transit is currently working on a relaunch strategy to bring service back up to pre-pandemic levels in an effort to attract more ridership.
In an interview Friday with Global News Morning, Mayor Jyoti Gondek said security and safety for riders is a priority, but access is also important to bring riders back to the transit system.
“We have to balance that sort of approach with the fact that we’re trying to make transit accessible for everyone,” the mayor said. “It’s a pretty complex problem, but safety is at the top of mind for all of us.”
Gondek said several councillors have been exploring potential solutions and that the city has been working to ensure collaboration between partner organizations including Calgary Transit, police and social agencies.
“To make sure that we are not only helping people in positions of vulnerability but making sure that everyday Calgarians, who need to take the train to get to work and school are safe,” Gondek said.
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