October 2015 – Compass Card and Zone-free Bus Rides

credit: TransLink

Last Thursday, TransLink announced a big move ahead in the Compass Card and new zone-free bus rides for October. Here’s what the Buzzer Blog has to say:

By late October, Compass Cards will be available to the general public to buy for use on all transit services — just in time for monthly pass holders to load November’s month pass on their Compass Card!

After this date, Compass Cards will be available from CVMs, by mail, online, phone request and in person at the Compass retailer network or Compass walk-in centres.

So that is big news that the Compass Card is finally rolling out for the general public. Hopefully, most of the bugs have been ironed out by now. It’s been roughly a 5 year rollout – about 2 years more than expected. I think TransLink shot themselves in the foot by underestimating the time the rollout would take. I’m of the thinking that one should under-promise and over-deliver. Unfortunately, this Compass Card rollout has been the exact opposite. In any case, it’s finally coming together.

There is however one little wrinkle they couldn’t iron out of the Compass Card project – the tap out delays and card reader problems on buses. TransLink’s solution? Eliminate extra fares on multi-zone travel. Essentially all buses will now be one-zone travel all day, every day.

That means that $2.75 will allow any bus passenger to go as far as they like and the fare will cover transfers for 90 minutes. So cross-zone buses will all cost $2.75 regardless of how far the bus travels. That’s a boon for anyone who takes those buses.

As for the SkyTrain (all lines), SeaBus, and West Coast Express, they will all still operate under the current 3-zone system. So a trip that covers 2 zones will still cost $4 and a trip that covers 3 zones will still cost $5.50.

With the Compass Card, costs should be reduced, however. The Compass Card is expected to charge what is the FareSaver (booklet of 10 tickets) rate of $2.10 for 1 zone, $3.15 for 2 zones, and $4.20 for 3 zones. There’s definitely an incentive to buy a Compass Card even if you are a part-time transit rider. At least you won’t forget where you put your FareSaver booklets.

The real questions about the Compass Card will surround transfers between buses and SkyTrain/SeaBus.

What happens when you have a combined trip on bus and SkyTrain/SeaBus? If one pays cash and grabs a bus transfer, that transfer ticket will not allow passengers into the SkyTrain or SeaBus. I know at least one Twitter user tweeted angrily to me about that. This traveller would have to purchase another ticket when entering the SkyTrain system. Essentially, the traveller is charged twice.

The same trip with a Compass Card would not incur the additional charge when changing to the SkyTrain. The traveller would be charged $2.10 when boarding the bus and then not be charged when tapping into the SkyTrain station.

I feel this is more incentive for people to get a Compass Card. A lot of people, though, seem to be reluctant to get the Compass Card. I’m not entirely sure why since I’ve been waiting for a smartcard to come to Vancouver ever since I tried Hong Kong’s Octopus card. I guess people have their reasons. For me, I think having the Compass Card saves me from having to go and buy FareCards and FareSavers at retailers every month. It saves me from worrying about carrying a pack of FareSavers. The Compass Card is just way easier, cheaper, and simpler to carry, in my opinion.

There’s some more reading out there if you’d like to take a look. The most up-to-date info is probably in the comments section of the Buzzer Blog post. TransLink is directing people to AskCompass.ca, but I feel not all the answers reflect the new reality that is about to start in October this year.

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