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TransLink to upgrade Sapperton exit

TransLink’s launch of fare gates is the motivation behind finally dealing with a long-term issue at its Sapperton SkyTrain station, asserts a New Westminster councillor.

The city has been calling for TransLink to provide an access for passengers to the Braid industrial area from the station ever since the Millennium Line was opened in 2002.

The station is on the south side of Brunette Avenue and a rail line with an overpass connecting it to Sapperton on the north side. Those headed to work in the industrial area on the same side of the rail lines and roads as the station are supposed to take a roundabout route that involves going about 10 to 15 minutes out of their way. An unofficial alternative is to jaywalk across four lanes of heavy traffic on Brunette and a busy rail line, but most opt to take a shortcut by using the emergency exit which has stairs descending directly to where they need to go.

TransLink estimates 50 to 100 people do this daily and has begun a bidding process for a design to make this legitimate. Spokesman Derek Zabel said the exit will be upgraded to include tap pads to read the new Compass cards it will be distributing for passengers once the fare gates come into force. If no changes are made to the exit then when passengers get off the SkyTrain it can’t be recorded on their cards.

Coun. Jonathan Coté believes that was TransLink’s main motivation for the upgrade and not the need to deal with an unsafe situation.

“It kind of speaks to they really do need a proper entrance and exit at that station,” said Coté, co-chair of the city’s Master Transportation Plan task force and chair of its bicycle and pedestrian advisory committee. “It’s unfortunate it took something like this [for TransLink to take action]. I’m pleased they came to the table.”

Coté suspects TransLink is underestimating the usage of the exit. He said the city identified it as a deficiency as soon as it was built and would like to see a proper entry and exit as well as an elevator installed to prevent jaywalking across Brunette. “That’s a very dangerous situation because that’s a high traffic [route].”

Zabel said even though passengers using the exit weren’t supposed to TransLink was OK with it considering the alternatives. He added the transportation authority determined there were safety and capacity upgrades needed at a lot of Expo line stations that were of a higher priority than the Sapperton Station.

While the current emergency exit will have tap pads to read cards when the upgrade is done, no ticket dispensers will be located there, said Zabel.

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