ALERT! : More info
Translink Buzzer Blog

Compass card: more about the region’s new fare system

Look look: we’ve rolled out a bit more info about Compass card today!

Check out the video above and our updated Compass card site. You’ll find more detail on how to use your Compass card on the system, safety and security features, and more.

You can also read a comprehensive Vancouver Sun article spotlighting the Compass system, which has a very interesting video!

Feel free to let us know your feedback in the comments and we’ll do our best to get answers. (Are you spotting Compass readers installed on your local bus yet? Here’s one out in the wild!)


  • By Andrae Griffith, December 17, 2012 @ 4:36 pm

    Two part question: I noticed that compass users will have to tap out at the end of their journey to ensure that the correct fare is deducted. Does this mean that each bus door will have a reader? If so, could this lead to all-door boarding on all routes at all times?

  • By Sheba, December 17, 2012 @ 6:22 pm

    Andrae: To tap out they need a reader at every door. In theory we should be able to have all-door boarding on buses.

    The Faq isn’t making me believe that TransLink has really worked out what is going to happen to ‘personalized’ fares (U Pass, disability pass, etc). “Special passes, such as the government transit pass, CNIB, etc., may be personalized with your name, expiry date or other information printed on the front of the card.”

    Uhm if it’s a non-transferable pass, then it needs to have that info somewhere, and if TransLink isn’t storing personal info on the chip (also in the Faq) then what other options are there other than physically writing it on the card?

  • By Ashley Chow, December 17, 2012 @ 7:16 pm

    I’m confused. I thought that tap in, tap out systems were supposed to work in the sense that you get charged based on the distance traveled, not still in this fare zone system where it’s cheaper for me to SkyTrain downtown (20 minutes) than to SkyTrain to Metrotown (5 minutes). I just think that keeping the fare zone system and 90-minute transfer essentially defeats the purpose of tapping in and out.

  • By Andrew Joyce, December 17, 2012 @ 7:46 pm

    One thing that I’m wondering is how the Compass Card system is going to work for people with Provincial Bus Passes.

  • By Tone1point1, December 17, 2012 @ 9:32 pm

    Well this is news to me. I thought those black things were put there for people who insist on hovering near the back door to lean against.

    I can see a couple of problems. First, when the bus is packed it is inevitable that people will obstruct the black tappy things and we’ll forever be asking them to kindly move out of the way.

    Second, what is to stop an unscrupulous person from tapping out a couple of stops after they get on and staying on the bus through two or three zones? ? I’m not sure I get how this will keep anyone honest.

  • By Nick, December 17, 2012 @ 10:19 pm

    Still curious as to how the U-Pass will be integrated with this new system… Will post-secondary institutions be receiving new machines that work similar to the ones that exist today (e.g.: swipe student ID card and “tap” new Compass Card to receive the U-Pass product)?

    And I do hope the zoned fare structure ends in favour of distance-based fares on SkyTrain lines and perhaps a flat rate for all trips made on buses (say, $2 or less for everyone) to encourage everyone to take transit!

  • By DB, December 18, 2012 @ 7:40 am

    Good work, it’s nice to see this project moving forward. I’d suggest that:
    As per some of the above comments, once the bugs are out, experiment with different fare structures (eg 50% discount before 6AM, distance-based, etc).
    Work with the car share firms, the Passenger Transportation Board, EasyPark, and key retailing partners so that people can use their compass card for all kinds of mobility and ‘pocket change’ type tasks. In 2073, when we’ve figured out how to share helmets, you can add bike share to the list…

  • By Raymond, December 18, 2012 @ 8:51 am

    One question i have is say i buy a compass card at a grocery store and i need to use it to get on the bus right away, then does it come with stored value on it already? How will people load a monthly pass onto their compass cards.

  • By J, December 18, 2012 @ 10:07 am

    I have a question about how add-fares work with Compass Card.

    Expectation: I can have monthly pass (one zone) loaded onto the card as well as a card balance. If I tap in at Edmonds and tap out at Granville prior to 6:30PM, I would expect that the system would automatically use the $1.25 charge I have stored in the balance section of the card to cover the add-fare cost.

    Could you confirm or correct my assumptions? Thank you!

  • By Rvie, December 18, 2012 @ 12:26 pm

    Any idea how the U-Pass will be integrated into the Compass Card system?

  • By dan t, December 18, 2012 @ 12:41 pm

    According to the Ubyssey, students at UBC will be issued a Compass Card beginning in May. Given that it will be for the summer term, students will presumably be one of the early adopters to test the system.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, December 18, 2012 @ 2:05 pm

    I’m going to forward your questions to the Compass team, but here’s all the answers I know right now!

    Andrae – All bus doors will indeed have readers. I don’t know if that will lead to all door boarding though: as of now we’ve only permitted all door boarding on high volume routes where quick loading makes a real difference to the performance of the route, as well as routes that have a high likelihood of people paying (ie U-Pass routes, routes that connect to SkyTrain).

    Ashley – The 3-zone system will stay in place through the launch of Compass. We’ve had lots of calls to re-evaluate it though, and we’re planning to take a look once we’ve collected enough data through the Compass system. So the tap in, tap out process helps us collect robust data on exact trips people are taking around the region, and can allow for distance-based fares in the future if we decide to go that way.

    Andrew: We’re working with all our existing partners to transition them to the Compass system. Compass cards can carry stored passes on them, so likely the government bus pass will just be loaded onto the card.

    Nick, Rvie: as I mentioned to Andrew above, the U-Passes and other monthly-type fare media can be loaded onto the Compass card. So you’d just tap in using your Compass card and the system would know if you had a valid U-Pass or not.

    J: Yes, you’re right, that’s how it would work!

  • By Allen, December 18, 2012 @ 4:26 pm

    There wouldn’t be much incentive for people with monthly passes and U-Passes to tap off when they get off the bus, would there? Since whether they tap off or not, it won’t affect how much they get charged. There wouldn’t be much incentive to tap on either for the 99 B-Line or the 145 Production Way/SFU. Wouldn’t the data collected be flawed then?

    Also, with the Compass Card, I would assume TransLink would be able to track how many people are on board a certain bus. Any plans to introduce a feature to the Next Bus that lets riders know how full the upcoming buses are so they can plan an alternate route?

  • By Sheba, December 18, 2012 @ 7:57 pm

    Allen: when you tap in, it assumes you’re going to take a 3 zone ride, and only adjusts for your actual ride when you tap out.

  • By Allen, December 18, 2012 @ 11:45 pm

    @Sheba: Those holding monthly passes and U-Passes have unlimited travel, so tapping on or off does not affect how they are charged fares…..?

  • By Tessa, December 19, 2012 @ 6:42 am

    I just read that when you tap on a bus, it assumes you take a three-zone ride. Is that true even for buses that don’t cross a fare boundary? I’m a forgetful person – am I going to be charged extra money every time I forget to tap out? Is there no way to rectify that? What if I tap in on the B-Line, don’t tap out at Commercial Broadway but immediately tap in again on the skytrain, wouldn’t it be obvious that I’m not on the B-line anymore?

    It seems like TransLink will get a lot of money from this from forgetful people who simply neglect to tap out.

    Also, what if I want to take a one-zone trip, but my card only has enough money in it for the one-zone trip. I understand the card is immediately read to make sure it has enough for three-zones. Will I be denied a one-zone trip if I don’t have enough money for three zones?

    I also note that the website says you can’t get on the skytrain through a faregate with a regular paper transfer. What happens to those of us without a compass card then? Say, I forgot it at home today, but I have cash. Is there no way to transfer onto a skytrain without paying again? What if I jump the turnstile while holding a valid paper from a bus – am I committing a crime, even though I paid for the service?

    I sure hope that TransLink is going to allow a lot of time for the transition. I think the compass card overall is a good thing, but it really depends on how it’s implemented, and if it limits people’s freedom and options then it could be more of a hassle than it’s worth.

  • By Adam, December 19, 2012 @ 8:32 am

    TAPPING OUT of buses? Bad idea Translink! Change this!

  • By Andrae Griffith (@gttavisions), December 19, 2012 @ 10:23 am

    To all those worried about tapping out:

    I’ve lived in cities where people have made the transition from paying upon entry to tapping in / tapping out. I hear your concerns, but in almost every case it ends up not being a big deal.

    The entire nation of the Netherlands made this transition, so saying that it won’t work here is like saying that they are just better people than we are. That’s kind of defeatist society is not the kind of society I want to live in. Let’s challenge ourselves and show the world that everything they can do we can go better!

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, December 20, 2012 @ 10:00 am

    OK, answers!

    For Andrae Griffith:

    All doors will have readers, front will have one and there will be two at the back door. Routes that have all door boarding today will still have that option and Compass allows for the flexibility of all door boarding for other routes in future.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, December 20, 2012 @ 10:00 am

    For Raymond:
    Preloaded Compass cards are planned to be sold at FareDealer locations for those who want to use their cards on the bus system right away. We are also working right now to determine which retailers will be selling Compass cards through Compass vending machines and hope to be able to announce this news early in 2013.

    Compass cards can also be purchased from in station Compass vending machines or online and can easily be loaded with either stored value or a pass product by phone, online and at our Stadium customer service centre for convenience. There will be a slight delay from when you load your card to when your value appears on it if you are taking the bus as your first mode.

    Check out this link for more:

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, December 20, 2012 @ 10:01 am

    For Andrew Joyce and Nick:

    All pass products in use now will be able to be loaded onto the Compass Card. We are working with the Province of BC on how to most efficiently roll this program out.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, December 20, 2012 @ 10:02 am

    For Tone1point1:

    We expect there will be a period of transition where transit users are getting used to the new system, and will utilize staff support and public education to address these concerns.
    We will continue to do fare inspections on the bus, transit police will have handheld units checking Compass cards and tickets for valid fares. If someone is found to be in violation of a fare zone, they will be fined. There is also an audible tone when tapping in or out so it will be obvious if travellers are tapping out ahead of the time they disembark the bus.

  • By Raymond, December 20, 2012 @ 2:43 pm

    Say i use a compass card on a weekday to go to richmond on the canada line train, then how do i pay my addfare with the card.

  • By Tone1point1, December 21, 2012 @ 8:44 pm

    Thank you for the follow-up Jhenifer!
    I am looking forward to the new card system, particularly being able to add faresaver tickets online.

  • By Paul C, December 23, 2012 @ 5:31 pm

    A few questions.

    I understand that if I get on the skytrain at Granville it will check to see if I have enough funds on my card to travel the 3 zones to Surrey. So I assume that if I don’t have enough funds the gate will not open.

    Now on a bus route that only travels in 1 zone, as an example the #41. Will it still try and deduct a 3 zone fair when I tap in? Or will it realize this route only travels in 1 zone and thus only deduct the necessary fair for 1 zone?

    I’ll assume that if in the case of the #41 that if it only deducts for 1 zone. That in the case of the #49 it will only deduct for a max of 2 zones.

    If both are true above then it would only be for skytrain lines and bus routes that travel through 3 zones that will try and deduct for the 3 zones.

    Moving on. If I were to take the #20 from 41st Ave. I tap in when I get on. I get off at Broadway to get on the #99. What if I forget to tap out when I get off the #20 at Broadway. Then the system sees me tap in on the #99. I assume it will realize that while I didn’t tap out on the #20 it will tap me out as I am now on a different route. Of course this will only happen if I’m still within my 90 minute travel time frame.

    Hope the questions are easy to understand. :)

  • By Stefanie Lee - Buzzer Contributor, December 28, 2012 @ 10:03 am

    Hi Paul – Thanks for your questions and planning ahead for Compass card! We’re excited about the new system too! Unfortunately the Compass card project leads, who would be able to answer your questions, are on holidays and will be returning in the New Year. We’ll try to get you an answer at that time. Have you checked out our Compass card section on our webpage yet? It’s a great resource for Compass info. Thanks for writing!

  • By Adam, December 28, 2012 @ 11:24 am

    I was on a packed bus last night, and it would have been impossible for me to “tap out” because of the congestion.


  • By Norm, January 23, 2013 @ 2:47 pm

    Do you know when the faregate pilot project will start and who will participate?
    Also when I approach the faregate while entering the station and someone else approaches the same faregate trying to exit, who gets priority? Are the faregates 2-way?

  • By Dale, January 24, 2013 @ 6:11 pm

    Can’t wait to see what happens when people need to tap out on a packed bus. Have you seen what the 22 bus looks like in peak hour?

    Secondly (highly likely due to the packed buses) I have never once in 5 years seen anyone inspecting tickets on a bus. Good to know I’ll be able to travel 1 zone everywhere when the Compass card arrives. I can tap in at the front of the bus and tap out at the back, an audible beep isn’t a deterrent.

  • By Norm, January 28, 2013 @ 2:08 pm

    This system is already installed in several other cities so the program is already written to catch any “scams”. If you exit a vehicle without paying the proper fare the coompter will remeber you and charge you next time you get on. Good luck.

  • By Norm, March 9, 2013 @ 7:42 am

    Dec 28 someone promised answers to Compass questions from staff on vacation – where are answers??

  • By Norm, April 8, 2013 @ 8:25 pm

    Still no answers to questions posed since Dec 28 – some info blog this is.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, April 9, 2013 @ 2:57 pm

    Hi Norman – apologies for the belated response. You wrote in to the Buzzer’s email and we responded that way, but I am happy to post the answer here for others to read.

    The Pilot Test will run this summer and that we will be issuing a call for volunteers through our web site. The Pilot Test will use certain bus routes and SkyTrain, so we will likely draw most of our volunteers from people who use those routes.

    I don’t believe there are any exact dates yet, but we will keep you posted as we know more.

  • By Manny, June 16, 2013 @ 9:44 pm

    Hi there,
    I know the pilot program for the compass system starts in the summer, but does anyone know when and where can i sign up to be a volunteer for the testing?

  • By Norm, June 29, 2013 @ 2:06 pm

    There is a new sign at Lougheed station stating that testing is already underway, I cannot believe the lack of communication about this project and the dates for various steps along the way. Any team of professionals establishes a SCHEDULE using computer software snd sets date targets to start or complete stages of the project. Where is this information? By the time the public knows this information we won’t care anymore.

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, July 2, 2013 @ 4:32 pm

    Hi Everyone – Thanks for all of your interest in Compass! The project is currently in the equipment, IT systems and software installation testing phase – this means that the equipment (gates, farecard readers, etc.) are visible on the system and are currently being tested. The public may notice lights on gates and lit up card/ticket vending machine screens and bus readers, but they are not operational.

    We are very excited that the Compass Beta recruitment phase will be announced very soon – check back here for updates on how you can apply:

  • By Alex Gaio, July 12, 2013 @ 6:25 pm

    Can’t wait for the Beta phase!

  • By ???, July 12, 2013 @ 9:56 pm

    I was kinda dissappointed to hear distanced based fares will not be available at launch.

  • By Raymond, July 30, 2013 @ 5:04 pm

    Dear Translink,

    Hi there, if testing is already underway now, when will the public be able to use compass?

  • By Pamela Findling - Buzzer Contributor, July 31, 2013 @ 10:51 am

    Hi, Raymond. We’re scheduled to begin transitioning to the Compass system in late fall 2013. We’ll have lots of information on the specifics of Compass in the next few months so customers know how and when to get their card so they can start tapping in and tapping out of the system.

  • By Levi, August 16, 2013 @ 9:47 am

    This tap out system seems like a bad idea. Sometimes the buses are so crammed full that it would be really hard to tap out.

    Also what happens if you accidently tap twice, or forget to tap out? Would you then be tapping out whenever you try to tap in from that point on? I’m not sure this system was really well thought out.

    As a third note, these captcha’s are really hard to read. ;)

  • By stairlifts, October 1, 2013 @ 3:59 pm

    These stairlifts are created simply bearing in mind
    the client’s need and as per his instructions.

    A whole lot worse, derailment or perhaps a similar intense malfunction of the chair lift.

  • By Henry Myers, October 4, 2013 @ 2:47 pm

    Assuming that the Compass card will still need to be policed by transit police, I wonder at the sensibility of this huge expenditure to put in a system that does not at least have an RFID sensor to know that a person is on or not on a vehicle. I think it would have made more sense to use the money to hire more transit police who make the system safer, than trying to automate security and enforce payment. Having more transit police employs more people, so our dollars go back into the local economy.

  • By raymond, April 27, 2014 @ 6:39 am

    Henry, the translink police cant be everywhere.

Other Links to this Post

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Please read our Participation Guidelines before you comment.