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?
After a two-year wait, it’s finally here in my hands. A real, functioning Compass Card. The new smart cards for use on all TransLink vehicles is available to the general public. I had my taste of the Compass Card 2 years ago as a beta tester, but now I can finally say goodbye to my monthly paper FareCard and to those paper FareSavers that go missing oh so easily.
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.
In Japan, Japan Rail (JR) is a name that can be found across the country. It comes in many flavours. There’s the green JR East that most people will see in Tokyo, the blue JR West found in Kansai townships, the orange JR Central that serves everything between Kanto and Kansai regions, and more. In Hokkaido, there is the light green manifestation of JR known as JR Hokkaido.
In Sapporo, almost all the JR trains must go through Sapporo Station. This is probably the busiest train station in all of Hokkaido seeing about 90,000 passengers a day go through its doors. If you walk through the station around 6pm, you will feel the rush of 90,000 passengers a day.
If one must get to destinations beyond Sapporo or outside of the subway system, then JR is one way to do it. You can think of JR as a commuter rail system serving the “suburbs” of Sapporo. JR Hokkaido is more than just a suburban commuter rail, but for the purpose of getting around the outer areas of Sapporo, that’s the closest description that matches its services.
It 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.
Your basic ride on the T involves paying $2 at a Ticket Vending Machine at subway stations. You get a CharlieTicket that you use to get through the fare gates. Slide the CharlieTicket into the ticket slot. The gate will read your card and spit it back out on top of the machine for you to collect. The gates will then open up for you and let you on your merry way. When you exit the system, then you use the ticket to get out by feeding the ticket into the reader. This time the machine will not return the ticket to you, but it will open the gates to let you escape the T.
A ride on the bus is a little cheaper at $1.50. Payment can be made with those dreaded US dollar bills. I simply hate them. I love our Canadian loonies and toonies. Be prepared to wait and wrinkled old bills of George Washington keep being rejected.
If you are a visitor in Boston, I’d recommend purchasing the 7-Day Link Pass. You can purchase it from any of the T station ticket vending machines. It’s $15 and it allows unlimited travel on bus and subway for a continuous 7-day period. It’s really a smashing deal for what you get. A ride on the T, typically costs $2 per ride, so after 8 rides, you make up for cost of it there. You use the LinkPass exactly like the CharlieTicket. Remember to collect your LinkPass when you exit stations.
If you are a transit geek like me, then you may want to purchase your own CharlieCard. The CharlieCard is Boston’s transit smart card. I had a little trouble finding exactly where to buy my card. I was at Back Bay Station on the Orange Line near my hotel. I checked out all the ticket vending machines. They only sold individual CharlieTickets for single rides. I had to ask for a couple of people where I could buy the CharlieCard.
So if you are at Back Bay Station, you have to go to the where Amtrak ticketing booths are. The CharlieCards are available from the tellers on the far left under the Amtrak signage. That is the last place I thought to look to buy an MBTA fare product. Thumbs down on signage in this case.
A CharlieCard does not cost anything in itself. You just tell the teller how much you want to put on. I threw on $5 because I thought was a nice round number. I only used my CharlieCard once or twice while in Boston because I really want to get my money’s worth out of my LinkPass. However, with the CharlieCard, all your rides are discounted. The ride on the subway only deducts $1.70 for a subway ride and you get a free transfer to a local bus. On the bus, it costs $1.25 per ride. So there is great incentive for locals or long-time visitors to get a CharlieCard. As a transit geek, I just want to collect as many of these smart cards from around the world.