The Compass Card – Another Gordon Campbell Fiasco!

The Compass Card fiasco is not really a TransLink problem, rather it is the epitome of why TransLink has problems; TransLink is a tool of the Premier’s Office and it must do the Premier’s bidding or face serious repercussions.

Premier Gordon Campbell’s best friend, Ken Dobell, was the lobbyist for Cubit Industries makers of fare card systems and fare-gates and what Ken Dobell wants, Ken Dobell gets! TransLink was compelled to purchase the compass fare-card and fare gate system, even though TransLink did not want it.

With help from the mainstream media, in particular the Vancouver Sun and CKNW radio, the propaganda campaign, using perceived rampant fare evasion as the ‘raison d’A?tre ‘ for fare-gates succeeded wonderfully. The Compass Card and fare gates were soon forced upon TransLink by popular public demand, even though fare evasion was well within industry norms!

The problems now associated with the Compass Card resides with concession fares, the U-Pass and the antiquated tap in – tap out method of using the fare card. In fact Zwei has been told by a whistle blower working at TransLink that the Compass Card and fare gates may be never put into revenue service!

The Compass Card debacle is just another, in a long list ofAi?? of Gordon Campbell’s ill conceived meddling forcing a rather complicated fare card/fare gate system on a very uncomplicated paid fare zone method with open access stations, which has cost the tax payer dearly, much more than was lost due to fare evasion.

TransLink stays mum as Compass Card problems point to further delay

By Dan Fumano, The Province March 26, 2015

Back in November 2007, then-transportation minister returned from a trip to Europe, and announced sweeping changes to Lower Mainland transit.

Minister Kevin Falcon was impressed by transit systems in London and Rotterdam, and he envisioned electronic fare gates and smart cards for Metro Vancouver.

The smart card, Falcon said, was ai???very easy to use,ai??? and a key part of the plan.

He said at the time: ai???It actually grows your ridership dramatically. Itai??i??s really

A few months later, Falcon was asked about fare gates, or turnstiles, at SkyTrain stations, and he told The Province: ai???Itai??i??s going to

That was seven years ago this month, and passengers are still waiting for those fare gates and smart card system, now known as the Compass Card, to happen.

Many have wondered: Did the Compass lose its way?

With Metro Vancouver currently in the midst of a plebiscite about a 10-year transportation plan, TransLinkai??i??s reputation and efficiency has become a major issue in the campaign, and the delayed Compass rollout has been one of the most frequently cited examples of the regional transport authorityai??i??s supposed challenges.

Target dates have come and gone, budgets have ballooned.

Only a handful of transit passengers are using the cards now ai??i?? about 10 per cent of TransLinkai??i??s goal ai??i?? and itai??i??s unclear when the system will be fully operational.

The first fare gate was installed in August 2012. Now, gates are installed at most stations, but they remain unused.

TransLinkai??i??s media office was unable to make someone available for an interview for this story between Monday and Thursday this week.

In an emailed statement, a spokeswoman said that by the end of summer 2015, TransLink expects to have about 215,000 Compass Cards on the system ai??i?? about one quarter of their end goal of 800,000.

Questions about the expected timeline for the Compassai??i?? full implementation were referred to TransLinkai??i??s website.

On the Frequently Asked Questions section of TransLinkai??i??s website, the first entry asks: ai???When can I start using the Compass and fare gate system?ai???

The response does not answer that question, but begins with ai???Excitement is building for the launch of Compass!ai???

In December 2010, an American company called Cubic Transportation Systems was awarded the contract to design, build, and operate the Compass system. However, calls to Cubicai??i??s San Diego headquarters this week were not returned.

As debate over the transit plebiscite continues, a lack of trust in TransLink has become a huge issue for the Yes campaign, according to a poll carried out earlier this month by the Angus Reid Institute for The Province.

Even high-profile campaigners for the Yes campaign, such as Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, have said they have ai???concerns about

Still, they have tried to remind voters, the vote is supposed to be about transportation, not about TransLink.

Jordan Bateman, the B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Foundation and the de facto head of the No campaign, said he hears from ai???TransLink apologistsai??? who say the Compass problems are ai???not TransLinkai??i??s fault,ai??? because the program was thrust upon them by the provincial government.

Batemanai??i??s response to that is: ai???Look, anyone who has a boss has been forced at times to do something in their job that they didnai??i??t want to do … That doesnai??i??t excuse gross mismanagement. TransLink is over-budget, years late, theyai??i??re nowhere near getting these things up and


TransLinkai??i??s website says: ai???the Compass system uses a simple tap-in/tap out

But in reality, itai??i??s so far been less ai???simpleai??? than envisioned.

The system is supposed to work like this: Transit customers ai???loadai??? up a Compass Card with funds to pay for trips.

As passengers enter a bus, SkyTrain station, SeaBus terminal or West Coast Express platform, they swipe the Compass Card against a reader, ai???tapping They will then swipe the card again at the end of each trip, ai???tapping

But, as the TransLink website notes: ai???Failure to tap out means the system will charge you for a three-zone fare, so itai??i??s crucial that you tap out!ai???

Indeed, the ai???tapping outai??? process has reportedly been one of the sticking points with the Compass technology.

Compass testers reported trouble getting the reader to recognize their card after repeated attempts to ai???tap

This can result, testers say, in log jams at SkyTrain fare gates, agitated passengers on busy buses, and customers getting over-charged.

One tester said: ai???If they ever they get this thing up and running, I think itai??i??s going to be a bit of a gong


5 Responses to “The Compass Card – Another Gordon Campbell Fiasco!”
  1. eric chris says:

    Censorship of the vice, stupidity and corruption at TransLink is rampant here. At least the Province makes an effort to expose the Mickey Mouse dimwits at TransLink. I have a theory: if TransLink implements the Compass system, it will have accurate ridership figures and all the inflated ridership totals will be exposed, hence the delay. This is what I wrote to TransLink last year; still no reply from Bob Paddon of TransLink:

    “Pigs at the trough”
    Society can’t afford to pay planners at TransLink ridiculous salaries which are far more than the salaries for highly trained and qualified teachers and nurses. Fundamentally, TransLink is a make work program for planners and others twiddling their thumbs all day. TransLink is unnecessarily costing taxpayers $45 million annually in Metro Vancouver.

    Money siphoned away from taxpayers for overhead at TransLink deprives schools of teachers and hospitals of nurses. Taxpayers don’t have the money to squander on Ian Jarvis and others slurping at the trough and employed “planning” at TransLink, whatever that entails and it surely isn’t much. We have a huge early childhood crisis and troubled youth are not receiving the early attention required to prevent them from swelling the ranks of the degenerates who plague crime riddled transit at present.

    Driving into downtown Vancouver losing jobs has plummeted. Driving to Surrey, Delta… Richmond gaining jobs is way-way up in Metro Vancouver. Too much money has been wasted on the wrong type of transit (s-train and subway) in Vancouver and not enough money has been invested in conventional transit for Surrey, Delta… Langley where most of the population growth is occurring. Road congestion and urban sprawl are exploding in Metro Vancouver. Raising taxes for planners at TransLink to pay for the s-train along North Road in Coquitlam and subway along Broadway in Vancouver is untenable:

    Transit by TransLink is a billion dollar blunder by the hundreds of half-wits employed as “planners” at TransLink: “Bachelor of Arts (BA) graduates” making $100,000 to $500,000 annually. I’m not bashing everyone including relatives, friends and others holding a BA degree. Unless planners at TransLink have sound fundamentals in science and calculus, they lack the insight to formulate solutions which are well beyond their grasp. They are stymied by seemingly intractable problems which really aren’t with the right qualifications. Planners at TransLink lose taxpayers millions and billions of dollars from blunders such as the Compass electronic fare system which adds up to 40% to the travel time on certain routes.

    Planners at TransLink don’t have the problem solving skills and common sense to understand that it does not take 0.3 seconds for each transit user to tap in or out at the sensor for the Compass system; it takes at about 3 seconds to get up to the sensor and move away from the sensor for someone else to tap in or out at the sensor. Compass cost taxpayers $200 million to purchase and can’t be used. Planners at TransLink are praying for a technical solution to reduce the tap in or out time at the sensor to 0.3 seconds. There is no solution for stupidity.

    Planners who don’t have the ability to comprehend Green’s theorem in calculus also don’t have what it takes to be effective as planners at TransLink. It’s that simple.

    There will be no solution to the Compass fiasco. Buffoons at the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure spearheaded it and bungling planners at TransLink blindly followed – to divert attention away from the Shirocca report showing TransLink to be a miserable failure and the worst performing transit organization in Canada.

  2. eric chris says:

    No one was hurt in the making of this video, supposedly according to TransLink. Another day, another disaster on transit in Vancouver.

    TransLink continues to insist that it is in fact very well run. Things only look bad. It is all just “optics” contend the idiots at TransLink, and reality doesn’t really reflect: reality.

    Any word on the missing transit user who hasn’t been found yet? Check the roof of this 99 b-line. I think; you’ll find him or her:

  3. eric chris says:

    This is a great listen. I especially like it near the end when David (White Rock councillor) asks the five TransLink dimwits how they got to the function – they drove.

  4. kyle says:

    Literally the best blog post I’ve ever read about the Compass fiasco. On point and blame in the right places. Jordan Bateman once again proves his ineptitude and party line doing anything he can to undermine Translink while clearly knowing facts otherwise.

  5. eric chris says:

    TransLink’s latest attempt to salvage the Compass flop, which has cost taxpayers $200 million so far, is to replace the three zone fare structure charging by the distance traveled with the single zone fare structure charging by the trip taken (same as ETS in Edmonton, for example). Even though I do like the single zone fare structure which is fairer for transit users, it won’t solve the challenges of the Compass system which is not compatible with the express and FTN service by TransLink.

    TransLink has to either drop its express and FTN service or drop its Compass program; I’m betting that the Compass program will be scrapped. Let me explain.

    “Transit without Compass”

    Prior to the Compass debacle, transit by TransLink was a “free for all” to board (it still is on the double long articulated b-lines with rear boarding) and transit users mostly pre-paid to board. Random fare checks kept most transit users honest. Honest citizens paid to board transit and the dishonest fare cheats such as Gregor Robertson who went on to become mayor in Vancouver (for having what it takes) were fined. Fines were set high enough to recover the losses from the fare cheats who were not caught. This allowed the express and FTN service to function without undue delays caused by real time fare payment (Compass card to tap in or out to board or alight transit).

    “Transit with Compass”

    With express and FTN service, there is no time for real time payment (Compass card to tap or out to register someone boarding or alighting). Express and FTN service has a limited number of stops (express and FTN service is described later) and there are just too many transit users piled up at the stops for real time payment taking too much time. Compass is a major blunder by clueless planners who don’t know what they are doing at TransLink. Real time fare payment with the Compass card is not conducive to the rush-rush express and FTN service by TransLink.

    On the other hand, systems which are similar to Compass favour leisurely (no panic) LRT or tram service having many more stops and fewer passengers waiting to board or alight at the stops. There are fewer passengers spread out over many more stops with LRT or tram service and there is much less panic to board or alight with LRT or tram lines. Real time fare payment does not cause onerous delays with LRT or tram service having closely spaced stops. Closely spaced stops with LRT or tram service, as a bonus, make the commuting time much faster for transit users than the distantly spaced stops taking a very long time to reach for express and FTN service by TransLink.

    “Express and FTN service described”

    Express transit reduces the round trip time of trains and buses to reduce the rolling stock required for transit – capital costs for vehicles (buses and trains). This is achieved by spacing the stops every one to two kilometres apart in distance – making the travel time on transit faster but the time to get to transit slower. Express and FTN service makes the time to reach the transit stop much longer for about 75% of the transit users. Overall, the long time to reach the distant hub to hub stations (s-train, subway or b-line) with express and FTN service greatly increases the commuting time for most transit users.

    This also has one very nasty side effect: it results in crowding at the hub to hub transit stations (s-train, subway and b-line) from the large number of transit users who are “forced” to converge at the small number of hub to hub transit stations (Commercial Drive and Broadway, in particular). To try to clear up the bottlenecks (without much success) at the hub to hub transit stations or stops (s-train, subway and b-line) in Vancouver, TransLink runs its s-train, subway and b-line vehicles at a very high frequency (FTN service) during both peak and non-peak hours (resulting in many empty or nearly empty buses on the roads to increase carbon emissions and clog up the roads, by the way).

    Transferring too many transit users to the hub to hub stations results in temporary overcrowding at the hub to hub stations and “pass-ups” which can be mitigated by not force-transferring so many transit users to the s-train and subway lines to build up their ridership. Incidentally, bottlenecks at Commercial Drive will not disappear with the planned subway to UBC and are inherent to the express and FTN service by TransLink.

    Real time payment for transit (Compass card) with express and FTN service by TransLink is impracticable. Planners at TransLink missed this and wasted $200 million on the Compass card. TransLink is just one big disaster by transportation planners (COV and TransLink) who do not understand what they are doing.

    Finally, there are from about 99,000 to 397,000 daily transit users in Metro Vancouver. On average there are about 315,000 people using transit daily.

    Where is TransLink coming up with its 850,000 daily Compass customers? I’m a loser baby, and I work for TransLink, so why don’t you… me…


    CBC – Compass flop

    RFTV – Compass fiasco

    Edmonton transit – fares

    Fare cheat – Gregor Robertson

    RFTV – transit ridership

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