Canada Line ticket machine disaster

Vancouver Sun

Vancouver commuters can’t buy a ticket to ride new Canada Line

ticketVANCOUVER — Charlie Chen tried five times Monday to use his credit card to buy two tickets to ride the new Canada Line from Aberdeen Station to the airport.

But the machine refused to cooperate. It told him his card was invalid. He tried again, pushing the card in and pulling it out quickly. It didn’t work.

He switched to the other ticket vending machine and sought help from a Canada Line attendant, who told him to wait for a click and for an orange light to blink before removing the card.

Still nothing. Eventually Chen slipped in a $5 bill and the machine spat out the tickets.

“I don’t know why it won’t take the credit card,” Chen said.

Neither does TransLink.

The regional transportation authority maintains the high-tech ticket-vending machines are working properly, but are slightly different from those in the Expo and Millennium SkyTrain stations.

This means that instead of slipping a card quickly in and out of the card slot, passengers must wait for the click and an orange light to blink before removing it.

But if the card remains in the slot for too long, the machine will consider the transaction cancelled and send a message that the card is invalid. TransLink spokesman Drew Snider said the machines are “temperamental,” but insisted that they do work.

Tell that to the people at Aberdeen Station, where one woman threw a tantrum after her card wouldn’t work in the machine. Another group of three people struggled for about five minutes before their tickets appeared.

Mahrokh Arefi, of TransLink, conceded the machines are still being tested and perhaps there needs to be more information about how to buy a ticket.

TransLink is working on what kind of instructional messages should be displayed on the machines to make them “more intuitive” to use, Arefi said. The information should be available within a week.

The machines were chosen because they’re compliant with chip-card systems. Similar machines will eventually replace those at the WestCoast Express station. Machines at Expo and Millennium SkyTrain stations are not equipped for chips.

“It’s a new system. With adequate information, it’s not going to be as much of a problem,” Arefi said.

Snider noted that passengers still have the option to pay cash, and that all the stations are located near ATMs.

Those who don’t pay risk getting a fine. Canada Line attendants are at most stations checking tickets before passengers board.

Transit police Staff Sgt. Al McGregor said officers have the discretion to fine users if they haven’t paid or are found committing other violations.

He said it was too early to say how many fines have been handed out in connection with the Canada Line because it often takes a week for officer’s reports to be filed.

“The onus is on the individual to provide proof of purchase,” he said. “It’s a learning curve for everyone right now.”

TransLink said there have been fewer complaints so far this week than last week as people start to get the hang of the ticket-vending machines.

But Canada Line attendant Hiro Tsujimoto said some of the machines weren’t working at all for credit cards, while one of the machines at Yaletown wouldn’t give any change. One man received just eight quarters from a $20 bill, he said.

Still, the machines haven’t deterred passengers from using the Canada Line, with 80,000 more boardings on Saturday and 85,000 on Sunday, according to operator ProTrans BC.

Jason Chan, spokesman of ProTrans BC, said the numbers were expected to be lower on the weekend, but it appears many passengers were heading to activities in downtown Vancouver.

ksinoski@vancouversun.com

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