TransLink’s Compass Card, which was released to students through the U-Pass BC program in May, will soon be available to all transit users.
The Compass Card has been introduced in phases up until this point, and TransLink estimated that by this month there would be approximately 220,000 customers using the new system.
The smart card project launch is now two years behind its original timeline, and $24 million over budget.
During August, the old ticket machines were phased out as users were able to purchase single tickets from the new Compass Vending Machines. By November, Compass Cards will be available for purchase at all Compass vending machines, various retail locations, and online.
Another change brought by this new phase is the “Bus Anywhere with a One-Zone Fare” campaign, which will allow users to travel through any number of zones by bus while only paying the standard one-zone fare.
The fare zone system, however, will remain intact for the SkyTrain, SeaBus, and West Coast Express, and there’s a chance it may return to the bus system sometime in the future. The fare gates at these stations will remain open for the time being, and TransLink has assured that they will provide ample notice before shutting them.
SFSS VP Student Services Darwin Binesh spoke to the challenges and successes of the U-Pass transition.
Binesh explained that since the launch of the Compass Card for U-Pass, the SFSS have met with students to discuss their experiences with the new system. So far, the society has consulted with about 250 to 300 students who are currently using the system.
He identified some initial difficulties students expressed during meetings in mid-to-late June with TransLink’s digital card reading system. Students noted that when transferring between buses and the SkyTrain the card readers would often display a red screen, indicating that the card had been rejected.
More recent consultations have revealed that rejected cards are no longer a major issue. Binesh explained that these sessions are about giving students access and information for a service for which they are already paying, and have so far been well received.
However, Binesh identified tapping in and out as one of the main concerns students have raised: “Because they have unlimited ridership, no one wants to tap in or out.”
Translink responded to these concerns in a media release, saying that, “starting October 5, bus-only passengers with Compass Cards and Compass Tickets will tap in but will no longer have to tap out when exiting the bus.”
Binesh explained, “The whole point is to tap in and out so that we can get a better sense of ridership — what it looks like, the use — so that we can use that data to improve service.”
He further elaborated that the one-zone bus fare element of the new phase “creates conditions where people won’t be overcharged in the instance where they forget to tap out, or there is an error.”
GSS Director of Graduate Services Adam Rinne explained that it’s important “for old students to not throw away their pass that they got during the summer, and to continue using it even when they have graduated from SFU.” This eliminates the need to pay the $6 deposit for a new card.
Furthermore, the electronic system that links each card to a student ID makes it much more difficult for students to sell and buy their U-Pass. Binesh noted that the electronic system makes it easy to deactivate any lost or stolen cards online, and then replace them by paying the $6 deposit.
Even though the Compass Cards have been available from SFU’s U-Pass kiosks since May, there will be a large influx of new students and students who were away for the summer in need of their transit passes.
The SFU U-Pass Office plans to have volunteers standing at the kiosks during peak hours, encouraging students to pick up informational brochures as they collect their Compass Cards.
“The university is really well prepared, all the cards have been ordered, we’re all set to go with the distribution. The promotional materials are ready so people know what to expect,” said Binesh.