A minority of transit users are already using it, but the full rollout of TransLink’s Compass card this fall will bring cash-free convenience and other advantages to all other riders who sign up.
No longer will passengers have to find correct change for a cash fare, or spend time buying prepaid tickets or passes ahead of time at stores.
Instead, they’ll log in to the compasscard.ca website or insert the card at kiosks and and load money on their account, which will be automatically drawn down as they use it.
Users won’t even have to remember to reload their card – they can activate a Compass option that automatically tops up the account when it falls below $5 with a pre-set amount from their bank account or credit card.
Right now, passengers who lose their monthly pass are simply out of luck and a bunch of money. Under Compass, as long as they’ve registered the card, they’ll be able to deactivate a lost or stolen card and transfer the balance to a new one.
FareSaver tickets and paper monthly passes and day passes will cease to be sold at some point, likely by early 2016. Compass users will be able to buy electronic versions of those passes for their account.
For regular monthly pass users, the auto-load option can be set to automatically buy the next month’s pass.
Users can check their balances online, through a mobile website, or through an automated phone system.
Families will be able to have multiple cards registered to one payment account.
And come tax time, monthly pass users who until now had to collect their monthly receipts to claim the federal public transit tax credit will now be able to simply print a transaction history from the Compass website.
Holdouts who don’t want Compass will still be able to pay cash, but it will cost them more.
Fares paid by Compass with money loaded as “stored value” will get a 14 per cent discount from the cash fare.
At transit stations, cash payers will buy a paper Compass ticket at a vending machine that will work at faregates.
Buses will continue to accept cash indefinitely but the paper transfers they issue won’t work at SkyTrain or SeaBus once the Compass faregates are shut – those riders will have to pay an extra fare at that point.
By October, people will be able to buy Compass cards in station vending machines. By November, they’ll be available through retail outlets or by mail order over the phone and online.
Officials aren’t predicting exactly when all the faregates will be closed.
The long-delayed rollout is happening now because TransLink on Thursday abandoned its original plan to require passengers tap out as they exit buses.
As of Oct. 5 it will charge only one zone on bus routes that previously required payment for two or three zones.
Further in the future, other things become possible as well with Compass.
TransLink wants to ultimately charge based on actual distance travelled.
And when a major service disruption occurs, it may be possible to issue refunds to the specific Compass users affected by something like the SkyTrain meltdowns over the past year.
For more information on the system, see askcompass.ca