TransLink announces single fare zone for buses, a new CEO and the final stage of Compass Card rollout

Acting CEO TransLink Aug 10, 2015

Cathy McLay, new acting TransLink CEO

TransLink introduced a new CEO and made a number of announcements related to the Compass Card at a press conference held at Waterfront Station on August 6, 2015. A significant change in the fare structure for bus routes was revealed. All bus routes will become Zone 1 in October.

Cathy McLay will take over as the acting CEO of TransLink after August 11, 2015. She is currently the CFO and the Executive Vice President of Finance and Corporate Services. McLay will presumably hold this post until a permanent CEO is hired and she’ll concurrently retain the CFO position.

The biggest announcement of the day was a “bus anywhere with a one zone fare” policy. Ms. McLay said that currently 80% of all TransLink bus routes are already in one zone. After October 5th all bus routes will be zone 1. One of the reasons that TransLink decided to make this change was due to the difficulties they encountered with having Compass Card users ‘tap off’ when disembarking. Now transit users will only have to ‘tap in’ when boarding a bus. McLay promised, “there is no fare increase. Customers will now simply pay one zone for all buses.” The single zone changes will also extend to HandyDart.

The existing fare zone structure will remain in place for the Skytrain, West Coast Express and the SeaBus. Transit users will need to tap out from these systems (we’re not sure how tapping out will work for crowds getting off a SeaBus).

The changes will create an interesting situation for transit users taking buses rather than a Seabus between the North Shore and Vancouver. Bus users travelling over the Lions Gate Bridge or the Second Narrows Bridge can ride with a one zone fare while SeaBus users will need a two zone fare for the same trip until 6:30pm on weekdays.

Changes will allow crossing to the North Shore on a one zone fare, while crossing in a SeaBus will remain a 2-zone fare

Changes will allow crossing to the North Shore on a one zone fare on a bus, while crossing in a SeaBus will remain a two zone fare

Seabus or bus? The bus will be a one zone ticket after Oct 5, 2015 compared to two zone sea-bus

Seabus or bus? A bus will be a one zone ticket after Oct 5, 2015 compared to two zone SeaBus during TransLink workday hours

The same fare differential will exist for transit users crossing the Fraser River on a bus instead of a Skytrain.

Canada Line North Arm Bridge
New West Skytrain Fraser Bridge
The Compass Cards were rolled out for the West Coast Express in June. Over 135,000 customers are actively using Compass. Cathy McLay said, “our plan of delivering compass, and in phases, is working…. We’ve made improvements and course corrections along the way.” She announced that the Compass Vending machines will be turned on over the next few weeks and transit users will be able to purchase single tickets. Compass cards will be available in October from vending machines so that commuters can buy monthly passes for November.

Once the faregates are activated, two cash fares will be needed for anyone transferring from a bus to a Skytrain (this applies for cash fares only and not Compass). The current Faresavers and monthly passes will be phased out at some time after the majority of users have transitioned to Compass.

On the issue of privacy concerns, TransLink has made sure that Compass Cards will be available for cash purchase and that subsequent top-ups can be also done with cash. Transit users have to option of preserving their anonymity by sticking with cash. TransLink will also allow users to register their cards and to top the cards off electronically. Balances for lost or stolen cards can be recovered. Once a user is registered they can be tracked. The website is already live and McLay said that over $1 million worth of purchases have been already transacted. Compass Cards will be available from vending machines at transit stations and from London Drugs. Compass is “still on budget” and is expected to stay within the $194 million that is currently allocated (this figure is the upwardly revised budget).

The technical briefing noted that a huge amount of data will be harvested when the system is fully rolled out via the tap-in points system-wide, and the tap-out points on Skytrain. The “missing data” for tap-outs on buses and trolleys can be estimated through analytics and inference models. In the future TransLink will consider making changes in the fare structure. The changes to make all buses one zone will increase ridership and it was predicted that this will financially balance the system by offsetting losses from the cheaper fares. Cities like London only have a one zone on buses. The current 90 minute validation time for a ticket will remain unchanged.

It’s unknown if there will be any savings in policing the Skytrain after the faregates are closed; theoretically fare checkers won’t be needed on rapid transit lines. Cities such as Vienna, Berlin and Zürich continue to have open access transit systems without gates. It’s an open question whether TransLink will recoup the costs of the faregates. Transit users will be faced with additional delays to pass in and out of the faregates (at least when compared to the current open system).

Two Compass Cards were shown at the press conference: blue cards (regular price) and orange cards (concession). Registered users are able to see the history of their card. The Faresaver rates for cards will be available as loaded “stored value” on a Compass Card. It’s anticipated that the Faresavers will be discontinued at the beginning of 2016. Monthly passes will also be available as a product to load onto Compass Cards. The time to read a card (‘tap speed’) is around 4/10 of a second. During testing it turned out that the “tap out” when getting off a bus turned out to be a challenge, hence TransLink “made adjustments, made corrections” and eliminated tap out from buses. The “bus anywhere” one zone fare structure will be temporary and it will be reevaluated at some time in the future.

compass card translink

Lloyd Bauer, VP for Compass Project

Second Narrows Bridge

TransLink seeks new CEO, offers $319,000 salary (CTV, July 25, 2015)
TransLink’s faregates and details on the upcoming Compass pass (CityHallWatch, Sept 18, 2012)
Faresaver savings are more than planned Compass Card discount. Is a fare hike going under the radar? (CityHallWatch, Aug 28, 2013)
TransLink announces fare changes for upcoming Compass Card, Beta program (CityHallWatch, Aug 1, 2013)
TransLink Senior Executive Team (TransLink website)
Skytrain bridge between NewWest and Surrey

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