TransLink’s faregates and details on the upcoming Compass pass

This article was first posted on CityHallWatch by .

The installation of TransLink’s new faregates continues at Skytrain stations across the Lower Mainland. The latest station to see the addition of Faregate turnstiles is Commercial Drive (pictured, south side). The $171 million project to install gates at Skytrain stations and the Compass electronic fare system should be operational sometime in mid-2013. The centrepiece of the new system is the Compass Card and over half the budget for the new system will be spent on replacing the current ticketing and pass system. To abate privacy concerns, the Compass Card will provide an anonymous cash-only system for purchasing and reloading credit. For the initial launch of the new ticketing system the goal of TransLink is to mimic the current system as closely as possible. The following summary contains an overview of the Compass Card and Faregate system:

  • current tickets and passes will be replaced by three versions of the compass card
  • a blue card (normal adult), a red card (gov’t employees programs, U-Pass), and an orange card (concessions) will be available
  • monthly passes will continue to be an option as a pass can that be loaded onto a card
  • a stored value option will take the place of Faresaver tickets; discounted fares will be made available with this option of loading credit or cash onto a card
  • single fare cards and single trip limited use cards will be available along with cash fares
  • 90 minute use remains unchanged for single fare & stored value options
  • passengers will ‘tap in’ a card when boarding a vehicle or entering a station and ‘tap out’ a card upon exiting
  • the system will reserve a 3-zone journey when a stored-value user ‘taps-in’ a card; if the passengers forgets to the ‘tap-out’ the card when exiting then a full 3-zone journey will be charged (Note: this is subject to revision as TransLink is investigating other options as one and two zone vehicles exclude the possibility of a 3-zone trip)
  • compass cards will allow online recharge options, auto-refill setup and cash purchases of monthly passes or stored value credit at vending machines in stations and other locations such as BC Ferries terminals
  • no personal information will be stored on the cards; a secure back-end will be used for topping up cards (e.g. online with a credit card)
  • card accounts will store and track journey information for each passenger
  • journey and passenger data will be available to agencies that have security clearances and warrants to see this information; anonymous travel will be possible only by cash only purchases and top-ups of Compass cards or single fares
  • a privacy impact assessment will be reviewed by BC’s Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) to look at passenger monitoring and data collection such as safeguarding biometric / face scanning technologies upon entry and use of the system
  • if someone loses their card they can have balance on card transferred to another card if it is registered
  • the data-mining of passenger travel patterns will be used by TransLink to get a much clearer and real-time view of actual usage; this data will be helpful in finding out who is using the system and when in order to optimize the transit network
  • curbside readers to start and stop journeys are being considered for busy routes such as the 99B-line; details are still being worked for uses with special needs passengers and to address glitches and failures in the system
  • the card readers should be able to transact within a second with Compass cards

Faregates will be installed at all SkyTrain stations. Main Street station was originally planned to have card readers without faregates; however, new funding plans may be in place to fully rebuild the station and be completed for the west entrance of the station. The Metrotown station may also see upgrades before August of 2013.

TransLink may well update the workings of the Compass card. They are investigating a price capping capability option so that users do not have to calculate their projected use ahead of time (for example, spending $9 a day converts a card to a day pass or more than $81 a month converts to a one zone pass). Recycling of single card/limited use cards will continue to be available at stations in blue receptacles. Compass card options will allow a passenger to change the card from a monthly plan to stored value and back. This may be especially useful for passengers who are away on vacation for a few weeks. Slight changes in the way zone passes work will be put in place. A two zone pass will work between any two zones, while a single zone pass will work within any of the 3 zones (details on ‘add-fare’ will be worked out before the launch). Federal public transit tax credits will be recorded for 18 months on registered cards, alternately receipts from ticket vending machines can be used for the same purpose. There are no plans yet to allow PayPal or BitCoin credit purchases; however, TransLink may introduce further options before or after the system is rolled out. Many European systems have 3-day tourist passes, weekly and bi-weekly passes. TransLink may well look at other pass options after the new system up and running smoothly.

TransLink’s draft 2013 Base Plan was released on September 17th, 2012. Further information on this plan is available here; public consultation will be held between Sept 20th and Oct 12th (see link for details).

TransLink’s website shows that a Mayor’s Council Public Meeting will take place on Sept 19th, 2012 from 12:30 – 1:30pm in Burnaby (4720 Kingsway – Room 1220). The public delegations may well provide some insight on transit passenger and community concerns on the existing system and the upcoming faregates.

Further information on the Compass Card is available here. CityHallWatch would like to thank Ken Hardie of TransLink for providing additional details on the new fare system.

Faregates Backgrounder: The decision to install a gated ticketing system was announced in April 2009 at a time when former TransLink CEO Tom Prendergast was at the helm. Mr. Prendergast resigned later in 2009 and returned to New York City; however, the sequence of events to put the faregate system up had been put in motion. During consultation sessions in 2009 there was both public opposition and support for a faregate concept. Cities such as Berlin, Vienna and Zurich continue to have open systems and still keep fare evasion in check while providing a clean and safe transportation network. Other cities such as London and Brisbane have card-based control similar to the upcoming compass system. The choice of a gated system may be a value-based decision; many successful open systems are in Central and Northern Europe. However, comparing the relative pros and cons of open transit systems vs. gated ones is another topic that would require an entirely separate post to do it any justice.

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