Compass

Compass U-Pass

Compass Card Reader (flickr/Steve Chou)

Something happened this past Friday for transit in Vancouver. The first of the U-Pass BC Compass Cards rolled out. I’m surprised that TransLink is not tooting their horn more in this case. This is a big step in the implementation of the smart card system. Perhaps all the technical glitches that have delayed the full Compass Card release are making TransLink hedge their bets and not make a big splashy announcement.

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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.

Compass Beta Test – Yes!

20130826-232447.jpgYes! I’ve been selected as one of the Compass Beta Testers.  That means I get an early preview of the new Compass smart cards.  I know there’s been a lot of negative coverage regarding a transfer penalty at SkyTrain stations and about privacy issues.  However, with my experience with Octopus cards in Hong Kong, I’m excited to compare and see how things stack up.  I don’t think Compass will have the versatility of Hong Kong’s Octopus card.  After all, the Octopus card has been in operation since 1997 or so and we are 16 years behind the game.  All the same, we’ll see how things work out.  Now I eagerly await my welcome package.

[hands rubbing in glee]

Compass Gates and Bus Transfer Tickets

8033912646_c1e2f8042eIt looks like the blogosphere and twittersphere are happily talking about today’s article in the 24 Hours Vancouver about the bus tickets not being accepted at SkyTrain stations once the Compass Card is fully implemented.

It looks that may be the case.  The bus drivers union is definitely afraid of the backlash that their members may face as cash-paying transit riders will be complaining about paying once at the bus fare box and again at the SkyTrain station to get through the Compass card gates.

Stephen Rees makes an interesting point on his blog.

Why was there no magdip reader on the new faregates? There are probably fewer faregates than buses. Or no magdip reader on the machines that sell the Compass cards? All made by Cubic, of course. And when the electronic bus fareboxes were specified the idea of adding other media was supposed to be a bolt on extra that would be easy to install.

So why weren’t magnetic card readers installed in the gates to allow the bus tickets to be used?  Good question.  I’m not sure there’s an answer to that.

Another possible solution to this problem may be to have an attendant at the gate in the transition period to allow passengers with valid paper fares to get through.  And TransLink thought they might save on somebody’s salary by not needing manned gates?  Good luck.  Most of other transit jurisdictions with gates still need a person there to monitor things.

In the newspaper version of the 24 Hours article, there’s a highlighted quote about how some people who pay cash for the bus cannot string together $40-80 at anytime during a month.  This may be true.  However, if the Compass is going to be like a cash card, I would imagine you can put whatever amount you’d like on the card.  I think a minimum of $5 is reasonable and then any multiple of $5 from there on up.  I’m not sure why that quote is there because it doesn’t sound like an informed quote.  It seems like a quote meant to stir things.

Hopefully, when the Compass beta test starts rolling, we will see what other issues affect the new smartcard.  Now, we only need TransLink to actually listen to its beta testers no matter how critical the comments may be.  And not just make a new executive decision like they did in the card-naming contest that was scrubbed in favour for new names.

TransLink’s New SmartCard Names

It looks like some higher power in TransLink has decided to not go with the original smart card name choices – Compass, Otter, Umbrella, and George (in honor of Capt. Vancouver). The new choices are now Compass, TPass, and Starfish. So my one question is who was the brainchild that changed the choices?

Personally, I’m not all that impressed, but with the current final three, I would go for Starfish. TPass could be easily abused as T.P.Ass, which is an awful oversight on whoever picked that name as a finalist. Then Compass is just unoriginal. I think San Diego already uses that name.

If you want to vote for one of the three names, then visit TransLink for more info.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Final Four for new smart card name

I just found out the four finalists in the new smart card naming contest for TransLink’s new farecard to be available in 2013.

  • Compass Card
  • Otter Card
  • Umbrella Pass
  • George Card

I think I remember the combos of the names correctly.  I may have mixed up the card and pass portion for one of these.  I’m sorry if I did.

Out of the four finalists, I would pick the Otter Card.  It’s a fun and cute name that has a general appeal to people of all ages.  Umbrella Pass isn’t bad either.  A very apt name for a very wet city in the winter.