TransLink Introducing Fare Gates and Metro Cards in 2013

Photo credit: BC Gov Photos | Flickr

The days of the honor system are almost over.

TransLink, which runs Vancouver’s SkyTrains and buses, has officially announced it will implement fare gates by next fall, according to an article in the Vancouver Sun.  That means an end to the current system, where transit riders are largely trusted to purchase tickets and don’t need to pass through turnstiles.

The centrepiece of the new $171-million system is the Compass Card.  Similar to metro cards in many other large cities, the Compass Card allows riders to deposit money for fares onto a swipable card – from a single day’s worth of fares to an entire month’s.  You scan the card at validators when you enter and leave the transit system, and the correct fare is automatically deducted.

There’s a big convenience factor that goes along with the new system.  Value can be added to the Compass Cards at fare card machines in stations or by phone or Internet.  In addition, if you have a tap-and-go credit card (the “open wave” type), you can use that in lieu of a Compass Card.

The new fare gate system is expected to eliminate an estimated $15 million in annual losses due to fare cheats in Vancouver.  Currently, the SkyTrains operate under a proof-of-payment system.  Riders don’t pass through turnstiles but must show a ticket if approached by a transit officer on the trains or platforms.  Failure to have a ticket leads to a $173 fine.  Because monitoring is relatively modest, however, fare evasion can be rampant.

Photo credit: User unknown | Flickr

The new fare gate system is expected to begin operation in October, when an estimated 600,000-800,000 new Compass Cards will be issued.  It has required a $171 million investment for, among other things, the retrofitting of some 1,600 buses and renovations along SkyTrain lines.

As early as this spring, test participants will begin using Compass Cards so that TransLink can iron out any kinks in the system before it’s fully implemented.  To avoid confusion and ease the transition, fare gates will remain open for several months after the official October launch, as passengers get used to using the new cards.

What do you think about TransLink’s new Compass Card system? Let us know below.  

Want more updates on Vancouver and beyond? Follow me on Twitter @RemyScalza.

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9 Responses to TransLink Introducing Fare Gates and Metro Cards in 2013

  1. I am really looking forward to the fare cards. San Francisco has a similar system (they call their’s the ‘Clipper’ Card) and it’s VERY handy. As you said– there’s a huge convenience factor for sure.

  2. JR

    1). Not enforcing fare evasion initially was intentional. The transit authority wanted people to use the system and get comfortable using it to the point of being integrated into their everyday routines. Once the ridership proved to be constant and the cultural/behavioral shift secured (e.g people were hooked) they knew it was time to start collecting their money.

    2). Every major city with a transit system has a way of collecting fees and does not rely on the “honor” system. So to think it could go on inevitably is unrealistic. A transit card facilitates a seamless transition between modes of transport options.

    3). Transport card allows the government to build a profile on your use and where you go.

  3. JD

    Yes the Compass card system is a scam. $171M into the pockets of a private company while extracting hundreds of dollars from every household in the Translink region. We are paying through the nose, all to be constantly tracked and treated like sheep.

    As to the “benefits”, Translink has scraped and spun just about every lame justification available.

    Tranlink claims it’s convenient. Have you ever tried to use the stairway at Production Station when a bus or train full of SFU students pulls in? Those bloody fare gates have already reduced the entrance area by 30%. Constraining the access to transit through faregates (which are reminiscent of those used for livestock shuttled into a slaughterhouse) is more *inconvenient*.

    Translink claims its safer and more secure because “none of your personal information is stored electronically on your Compass card”. Well none at all is recorded in the current system, so this is obvious bunk.

    Translink claims it “easy to use”. Notice they do not say “easier to use”. The current system of carrying a pass, entering/exiting the Skytrain at will, and flashing a pass to a bus driver is dead simple and convenient. It’s just as easy to forget your contactless card as your current pass, or even your wallet or change. There is actually *nothing* easier about Compass.

    Translink claims it’s “efficient”. Notice they do not say “more efficient”, because it is not more efficient for riders. It is more efficient for Translink, though. More efficient to impose a surveillance system on all of us poor riders forced to swallow it.

    Translink claims they will not reduce their police staff at all. So Compass can have little to do with fare evasion. And besides, if it’s harder for the riffraff to travel free, they will just avoid using the system at all. Duh. Nice work Translink… not!

  4. Pingback: Translink: ‘screwing the poor is our business model going forward’ | Critical Thoughts

  5. mark

    looks like its going to be cheaper to take a taxi instead of translink busses, me and my girlfriend having to spend 2.75 one way and then another 2.75 for another bus or skytrain,yeah were done with translink and moving on to the taxi world

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