TransLink is in the final stages of the transition to the Compass Card system. Starting on January 1, 2016, the traditional printed monthly passes will be discontinued. Transit users will still be able to purchase monthly passes for Compass Cards; the current fare rates will remain unchanged (1 zone $91, 2 zone $124, 3 zone $170 for a full adult fare).
TransLink has recently extended the hours for the Compass Customer Service Centre at Stadium-Chinatown Station (Dunsmuir and Beatty) to 7:30am – 5pm, Monday to Friday. Unused faresaver tickets can be exchanged for Compass Card credit at this service centre. The Compass Cards are also available for purchase at Skytrain, SeaBus and West Coast Express Stations. London Drugs will be the only external dealer for the cards; vending machines will be placed in 18 London Drugs stores. There is a $6 refundable fee for the Compass Cards; there’s also an option to order the cards online.
Caveats: Users of the system should be careful to make sure that they ‘tap out’ when exiting the system at a faregate (Skytrain or SeaBus), otherwise a full 3-zone fare will be charged to the card. One way to always ‘tap in and out’ a card is to make sure to enter or exit the system via a closed faregate. TransLink has started to close some of the faregates in the system during the transition. For now, the existing faresaver tickets will continue to be valid on buses and on the Skytrain. Once all of the faregates are closed at transit stations, cash fares and faresavers tickets that are bought or validated on buses will not be transferable to Skytrain or SeaBus. In other words, if a transit user doesn’t have a Compass Card, a second cash fare ticket will be required when transferring between a bus and Skytrain. For all surface bus routes, TransLink has transitioned to a one-zone fare structure.
Compass Cards can hold both monthly passes and stored value credit (used like faresavers). For monthly pass users, surcharges for fare upgrades (for upgrading to 2 zones or 3 zones) are subtracted from stored value credit on the card.
TransLink has provided an option for users to register their cards in the event a card is lost or stolen. However, it will be possible to track the usage and movements of every registered user. For people concerned about privacy, transit users can remain anonymous if they purchase their cards with cash, and if they only top up cards with cash. Anonymous users should also decline to register their cards and avoid using the phone to resolve any customer service issues with the cards.
The Compass Card and faregate system has been in the works since April of 2009. The system is now budgeted to come in at $194 million (a substantial increase from the original $100 million estimate). Other cities, including Vienna, Berlin and Zurich, continue to operate ‘open transit systems’ without faregates. Will the move to a closed, gated rapid transit system in Vancouver pay off? Will the inconvenience of faregates outweigh the possible benefits (for example, cost savings in reducing fare inspections)?