Technology

The Imminent Parking Re-Think

I just read a long, but worthwhile article on “An End to Parking?” on Mother Jones.

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An giant empty parking lot in Sapporo, Japan

If you haven’t heard, the future is coming soon to a road near you. And the future is self-driving cars. There’s been a lot of talk about self-driving cars over the years. I’ve even sat in one back in 2006 at a Toyota Showcase building in Odaiba area of Tokyo.

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Compass Notes – Getting a Card and the October 5th Confusion

So we’re finally here in October 2015. I’ve already got my Compass Card and loaded it with a 1-zone monthly pass. I get to use the full version of this Compass Card for the first time today. That’s exciting for a transit geek like me. So you might be wondering how I got my Compass Card when it’s not readily available. Also what’s with this October 5th thing I keep hearing about?

image from askcompass.ca

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Compass Card Chat

I had a chat with a bus driver the other day. I noticed he had a new screen for his cash box. He said that drivers won’t be managing any of the Compass Card fares. He says that many of the readers are pointed away from the drivers. Drivers won’t be able to know what kind of Compass Card a passenger is using. So drivers definitely won’t be policing Compass Card use.

He said there may be more security folks on and off the buses to do spot checks of passengers. They’ll likely carry handheld Compass Card readers to see if somebody has properly tapped onto bus and to see if they’ve tapped off early when they shouldn’t.

The old cash boxes are still going to be used, but the driver told me that the machine will now issue Compass Card compatible tickets. In other words, they will be issuing mini RFID type cards that will allow cash payers to go through the SkyTrain station gates. There was some controversy before that somebody coming off the bus may have to pay again when they get to the SkyTrain. That problem will hopefully be fixed if this report is true.

So interesting tidbits from a bus driver. Let’s see how much of this comes to pass in a couple of months.

Compass Card – Cards Expired!

I had the rotten luck of not being able to ride transit for a whole week. I know that sounds like a weird statement, but a week like this is rare for me. With work and off-site presentations, I ended up needing the car a lot this week. Add in the major SkyTrain malfunction on Tuesday and I ended up driving on a day that I didn’t expect to.

So Saturday was the first time I rode the train in over a week. I went to tap and the big white X on a red screen flashed at me. Then underneath it read “Card Expired.” That’s a shame. I still had over $50 credit on the card to play with. I think TransLink has decided to expire all the cards at once. A Facebook post told me that somebody else also had their card expired.

So much for tapping. It was fun while it lasted. Hopefully, there will be some more testing that TransLink arranges. If not, I guess I’ll wait until January 2014 when I expect the full rollout of Compass to happen.

We’ll keep on tapping in 2014. Later.

The Card Keeps Tapping – Post Compass Card Beta Test (October 19, 2013)

It’s been another week tapping the leftover amount on my Compass Card.  It’s October 19th and I have just under $60 left in my balance.  I think the money is lasting a little longer since I only get $1.75 deducted per ride with a Concession card.  Here are a few of my thoughts from the past week.

  • I really want a way to track my own transactions.  I know that I am only deducted $1.75 per ride.  So why is my balance ending in a number that is not a multiple of $0.25.  I think it probably has something to do with the discount for Compass Card use, but I’m not sure.  I’m not sure TransLink is planning to give us access to this info.  I would think it’s easy enough for somebody has registered their card.
  • Yesterday I got a lot of red “Tap Card Again” errors at the SkyTrain gates.  I didn’t have so many problems with errors since I removed other NFC media away from the Compass Card.  I’m not sure if TransLink has done something to the readers or whether it’s my card
  • I wonder if there will be a Compass Card service centre of some sort.  I can imagine these cards malfunctioning.  When I was in Taipei, they use tiny plastic RFID/NFC tokens.  I had at least 3 of these tokens malfunction on me during my 5 day trip to the Taiwan capital.  Luckily, each Metro station has a service centre that could deal with issues as they come.  Our SkyTrain stations have nothing of sort.
  • There’s been news about a loophole where a passenger could “tap out” earlier than he/she actually alights the bus.  This is only an issue with bus rides that cross zone boundaries.  I can’t see bus drivers having the time to monitor the back card readers for “fare evaders.”  However, TransLink’s answer on the news was very flat and not very good.  It sounded like they didn’t have a solution to the problem and just brushed off the issue.
  • With some of these Compass Card complaints that have come out in the past month since testing began, why has the media not approached the man who spearheaded all these fare gates.  That would be Kevin Falcon.  So Kevin gave the edict to install fare gates, but TransLink gets the blame when things go wrong.  Is this how politics and transit works in British Columbia?

I’ll keep you all posted until my balance runs out.  Maybe I’ll even try tapping once my balance is depleted and see what happens.

Post Compass Beta Test Update – Keep on Tapping, Tapping, Tapping

So I still had $100 of “play cash” on my orange concession Compass Card.  The monthly pass expired on October 1st.  So I’ve been slowly using up the “cash.”  A few more observations from this past week.

  • The bus card readers and the SkyTrain gate card readers are different.  The SkyTrain gates seem to read the cards quite easily and robustly.  I can hold my card at an angle at the SkyTrain gate and get the tap in easily.  The bus readers seem more finicky.  I have to hold the card flat to the reader for at least a full second or so before it reads.
  • These finicky bus card readers may be a huge problem with the 99 B-Line.  The giant crush of the B-Line queue will prove problematic.  I already feel the pressure to get on and off the back doors without tapping a card.  With the need to tap cards will be really tricky.  Yesterday, I was tapping out and I think I tapped out, but I couldn’t hold up everyone behind me trying to get off the bus.  Again, I think we need Compass Validator machines at 99 B-Line stops to speed the queue up.
  • I’m a bit concerned about my cash balance being correct.  I wonder if TransLink will have a way for card users to access their transactions in order to track the card balance.  There was once or twice that I think I should have more money on my balance.

Compass Beta Test is officially over, but …

The Compass Beta Test is officially over as of yesterday. Here’s a few notes from the last week.

    I was able to tap my card through my backpack a couple of times. I had to keep my card in a more exterior pocket and I only ever tried it on the SkyTrain gates. It would have looked and felt awkward to “tap my bag” on the bus readers, especially the rear door readers that are shoulder level for me.

    After removing all other NFC media from my card sleeve (ie. credit cards, car2go member card), I had way less “Tap Card Again” errors. So the other near field wireless in cards can interfere with each other.

    On October 1st, my card got updated with my first tap of the day. The reader said “*Card Updated*”. So in the future when the card is reloaded with another monthly pass, I assume that the cards automatically update with the first tap of the month

    Today is technically not part of the beta test period, but I still used the card today. My card had a cash balance that I never used. So when I tapped today, there was no longer a monthly fare left. The card automatically switched to my cash balance. So now I am seeing two lines each time I tap out. One is the deducted amount and the other is the remaining balance.

    One thing I would have liked to try was to use the card in an AddFare situation. I did try to travel into another zone during the beta test, but my destination was Metrotown. There are no gates at Metrotown because they are about to renovate the station completely. I didn’t notice any Compass validation machines anywhere. So I don’t know if a gate would have properly deducted the 1 to 2 zone AddFare. Oh well.

    I never got an invite to a special Compass Beta Test event. 😦

So I will continue tapping until my cash balance runs out. I guess I’m fortunate in experiencing an extended beta test with my card. Still tapping.

Another Compass Update

I’ve been tapping away happily for over 2 weeks now.  A couple more observations for this past week.

  • I had a lot “Tap Card Again” errors with a giant white X on a red screen.  It turns out that I had put my MasterCard with PayPass in my Compass Card sleeve.  It wasn’t until the next day that I realized I had put my credit card in the same sleeve.  PayPass is a form of near-field communication (NFC) just like the Compass Card.  There was apparently some interference.  Once I removed the card, no problem.  
  • I mentioned last week that I have seen people in Hong Kong tap their Octopus Cards on the reader while in their purse or bag.  I had to try it out today.  I put my card in an external pocket so that it was close to the exterior of the bag.  I took my bag and placed the part of my bag where the card was.  Success!  Nice big white checkmark with a green screen.  I’ve only tried this once, but I need to test it out some more.  I don’t know if I would tap with my card in my bag on a bus though.  It might look funny with me taking my backpack and raising it up to the card reader at the rear of the bus.  That would be an interesting sight.

That’s all I have to report so far.  Now I’m just waiting for TransLink to announce some sort of promised testing event.  I haven’t seen any emails in my inbox, though.  Hello TransLink.  Waiting for the Compass Event.  Thank you.