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Compass card rollout delayed for most transit riders

TransLink vice-president of enterprise initiatives Mike Madill says the new Compass smart card won
TransLink vice-president of enterprise initiatives Mike Madill says the new Compass smart card won't be available to all transit users until next summer.
— image credit: Black Press file photo

TransLink has shuffled its schedule for rolling out its Compass card, meaning about two-thirds of transit users will now wait until next summer to start using the new payment system.

Officials had previously promised the cards would be available to all by late spring and that came after criticism that TransLink had failed to deliver on the "operational by fall 2013" signs on SkyTrain faregates.

West Coast Express passengers had been told they'd be first to get the new cards in December, but they have now been pushed back to late spring.

The general public won't be offered the smart cards until sometime in the summer, said Mike Madill, the TransLink vice-president in charge of the $194-million project.

The decision to delay stems from what he called "areas for improvement" flagged with the online customer service system that Compass users will log in to register cards, load money and control options like auto-loading from their connected credit cards.

"It's functional, but it's not to the service standard we require for our customers," Madill said. "We want to make sure we get it right for our customers all the way along."

TransLink previously planned to stop selling FareSaver tickets Jan. 1 but now says the booklets of prepaid discounted tickets will continue to be sold into next summer.

WCE passengers will also be able to keep buying seven- and 28-day passes until Compass arrives for them.

First up will now be income-assisted seniors and others with disabilities who now have the BC Bus Pass, which provides unlimited transit access B.C-wide for $45 a year.

Madill said they will get Compass cards by the end of January if they're Metro Vancouver residents, while Compass cards will also go out to Canadian National Institute for the Blind pass holders, as well as all TransLink employees to replace their current annual passes.

Since those are all annual passes that don't require payment top-ups, there's no need for the website to be working yet for them.

BC Bus Pass users elsewhere in B.C. – such us low-income seniors who come over from Victoria – will be able to get daypasses good on TransLink's system for those trips.

Metro holders of BC Bus passes will be able to flash their Compass cards to ride on the BC Transit system elsewhere in B.C.

"For those folks the benefit remains the same – that was an important principle for the government," Madill said.

Those first groups amount to 80,000 users or about a tenth of the full ridership of 800,000 that TransLink hopes to convert to Compass cards.

Madill said TransLink hopes to actually close the faregates – meaning SkyTrain access will only be by tapping in and out – by the end of summer or early next fall.

"We're not going to take the step of closing the faregates fully until all customers have had a chance to get a card and learn how to use it."

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