RFID Enables Hands-Free Transit Entrance for Vancouver Disabled

Hyperlight Systems designed the solution for the TransLink SkyTrain to leverage UHF RFD tag reads that would mimic the tapping of a fare card against an automated access gate.
By Claire Swedberg
Feb 04, 2018

Metro Vancouver transportation network TransLink has launched a hands-free access system for those with mobility issues at 23 Greater Vancouver area SkyTrain transit stations. The system employs radio frequency identification technology to prompt gates to open for those carrying UHF RFID-enabled badges so that they don't need to use their hands. The installation represents 40 percent of all the stations, the agency reports, and is slated to be taken live in all SkyTrain and SeaBus stations by the end of this year.

The hands-free solution, known as the Universal Fare Gate Access Program, represents the world's first transit authority system that offers hands-free automated access to disabled passengers, according to Erin Windross, TransLink's planner for access transit planning. The RFID technology, which consists of UHF access-control cards and readers above fare gates, is provided by British Columbia RFID and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions company Hyperlight Systems.

TransLink has launched a hands-free access system for those with mobility issues at 23 Greater Vancouver area SkyTrain transit stations.

TransLink's Erin Windross
SkyTrain, Vancouver's metropolitan rail system, comprises approximately 50 miles of track and 53 stations. It opened in 1985 as the world's first fully automated, unmanned rail system; serves an average of 470,000 boardings daily; and had traditionally used a paper-based ticketing solution, with tickets confirmed at stations through the honor system.

In 2016, TransLink replaced the old ticketing process. Its new Compass Card fare gate system features passive 13.56 MHz RFID tags built into reloadable cards that commuters can tap against a gate to pay their fares and access stations. "The only requirement" on the part of commuters, Windross says, "was that you had to tap your card at the gate, which works well for the vast majority of passengers." However, he notes, it doesn't work for everyone.

The new access-control gates introduced a problem: some passengers with physical disabilities might not be able to manually tap a card against a reader. To ensure access to those unable to physically tap a Compass Card, the authority offered a station-assistance program in the interim, while it explored potential solutions to enable unfettered access to the rail system. This required considerable effort on the part of passengers and transit employees, however. A passenger had to call the authority to indicate which station he or she needed to access, and the authority would assign a staff member to meet that individual and help him or her through the gate.

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