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Translink Buzzer Blog

Bus to Rail Transfer Still Possible with Compass Card

Hello Buzzer friends! 

Recently, there has been a number of media reports talking about a “double transit fee” when transferring from a bus to the SkyTrain with the upcoming Compass Card. I’d like to share some information about this issue with you, and hopefully clear up some questions you may have! 


Here’s a link to the media release regarding this news.

The upcoming Compass Card will be the easiest way to travel across the system.

When you use a Compass Card, you will be able to transfer between all transit modes, including bus and rail easily. You will also be able to enjoy other benefits, including a discount of up to 14 per cent over cash fares.

Tap in, tap out with a Compass Card to easily transfer between all transit modes!

Tap in, tap out with a Compass Card to easily transfer between all transit modes!

To be clear, you will be able to transfer from bus to rail with the Compass Card or a Compass ticket, without paying the “double transit fee”.

It is only customers who purchase fares on buses with cash who will not be able to use those transfers to transfer to rail.

To convert all the bus fareboxes to issue passes that would access the fare gates would cost about $25 million, and would also take a long time to implement.

Customers in focus groups had told us that they would rather us save the money and time, and instead, focus on an extended transition period.

During this period, TransLink will be providing an education and awareness program to give customers plenty of time to pick up a Compass Card, and to learn about the new system.

We are not unique in our approach. Many other transit systems around the world, including London and Paris, also don’t allow cash bus to rail transfers.

As is the case with many significant, complex and innovative Information Technology (IT) projects, Compass will be introduced in phases. The great thing about Compass is that the technology has built-in flexibility and scalability which will allow us to eventually add in features to make the transit experience better for you!


For more information about the Compass Card, please take a look at the FAQ page.



UPDATE: Thank you all for your ongoing interest in the upcoming Compass Card! I am happy many of you are taking steps to ask questions and learn more about the program. Keep in mind beta testing hasn’t quite started yet, so we will have more information rolling in for you as the time comes around!

Due to the large number of questions surrounding the $6 deposit fee, I want to provide a clarification and an example. Hope this helps!

There is a $6 deposit fee for a Compass Card, which allows you to enter and exit the system after a trip – the maximum cost would be a 3-zone trip for an adult, $5.50. According to the TransLink Transit Tariff (Section 2, Part B, #6), there is also a minimum of $0.01 to enter a Fare Paid Zone:

For passengers using a Compass Card with Stored Value for travel on Conventional Transit, the
minimum Stored Value for entry into a Fare Paid Zone is $0.01.

Perhaps this example will help clarify what it means to be able to use the $6 deposit fee towards buying fare:

I am at Surrey Central (Zone 3) and I am heading to my home in Vancouver (Zone 1). I need $5.50 for the 3 zone trip to travel home, but I only have $0.50 left on my Compass Card, and no cash or money on my debit/credit cards to add to it.

Because I have more than the $0.01 minimum outlined by the Transit Tariff, I am still allowed to enter the Fare Paid Zone, and I can use the $6 deposit fee to get myself home.

Once I tap out in Vancouver within a 90 minute transfer window, $5.50 will be deducted from my Compass Card – using the remaining $0.50 I had, and also $5.00 from the $6.00 deposit – bringing it to a negative of -$5.00. I would have to top up my Card from negatives to a minimum of $0.01 to be able to use my Compass Card again!

In summary, the $6 deposit fee is your safety net, to guarantee you at least a safe trip home should you ever find yourself stranded!

Author: Angela Chang


  • By Ashgill, August 15, 2013 @ 1:26 pm

    The Los Angeles MTA had the same problem (and uses the same smart card technology from Cubic). Their solution was to stock blank smart cards on each bus, and allow passengers to purchase a card when they board. It’s a simple and effective solution to the problem, with no fancy technology required!

  • By dan t, August 15, 2013 @ 2:04 pm

    I’m not sure what this uproar is about anyways. In the current system, by paying cash you are getting a bad deal compared to FareSavers. With the new system, you’ll still get a bad deal if you pay by cash compared to a Compass card. On the bus, I rarely see people pay in cash anyways, and when they do they slow down the whole line of people who mostly have passes. I just don’t understand what the big fuss is all about.

    Stay the course TransLink; let the fringe groups have their 15 minutes…

  • By David, August 15, 2013 @ 2:09 pm

    Yeah, this doesn’t have any effect on people who prepay for their tickets. The only people who’ll be double-tapped to pay for the train are the cash customers… Like tourists!! And it’s not like we get many of them, right?

  • By Sheba, August 15, 2013 @ 2:13 pm

    I’ve been reading about this and how people are freaking out. It’s not such a big deal for car people to pick up a Compass Card (which doesn’t have an expiration date) for the token times they take transit.

    One thing I haven’t seen is if there will be ‘ticket’ machines anywhere other than Skytrain station. If not then I’d suggest adding then to exchanges, park and rides, and the ferry terminals (I’m sure others will think of other major locations).

  • By Jordan, August 15, 2013 @ 2:42 pm

    I’m taken aback by all the reasonable responses so far! I was expecting to hear more of the (unwarranted, in my opinion) complaining the media has been spreading. So I guess this comment won’t add much diversity.

    Having a Compass Card seems so straight forward. And if tourists can buy one when they get here at the ferries or airport there really isn’t a reason to not have one. I also find it hilarious that, for allegedly being so money conscious, the people complaining about being charged twice are already grossly overpaying by not using faresavers!!

  • By Angela, August 15, 2013 @ 4:50 pm

    Why don’t they install machines at SkyTrain stations that will exchange your bus ticket for a compass ticket ?

  • By dan t, August 15, 2013 @ 5:41 pm

    Because that costs lots of money, to create a custom machine that can read TransLink’s proprietary magnetic tickets and convert them to Cubic’s RFID system. Who would you propose to pay for that?

    Besides, by forcing the change to a cash-free system, they are not only saving taxpayers money by not spending money unnecessarily, they are also saving riders money (the discount fare for Compass). It just doesn’t make any sense to spend more money than you have to, just to appease a very small subset of transit riders.

  • By Eugene Wong, August 15, 2013 @ 5:43 pm

    @ Translink

    Ashgill’s suggestion is the best. As long as all customers can buy cards on buses [or some other way, with the same level of convenience], then I have no complaints.

  • By Sheba, August 15, 2013 @ 5:51 pm

    … and people wonder why TransLink isn’t rolling out a new zone/fare system at the same time. After this freak out, can you imagine the pandemonium that would have caused?

  • By Eugene Wong, August 15, 2013 @ 7:41 pm

    @ Sheba

    I agree. The slowest possible roll out will be best…I think.

    @ Translink

    I think that I understand now: you want to upgrade, for better or for worse, but the fare boxes will need to be changed, or the riders will need to be “upgraded”. It’s all part of modernization, which needs to come eventually.

    However, through it all, you presented it as if the cash fare riders were the problem. Even though I probably haven’t paid cash in over a decade [or maybe even 2 decades], I resented the way that you seemed treat riders.

    If you point to the fare boxes, and mention the cost of upgrading them, and then suggest avoiding that altogether by changing the riders from cash fare riders to Compass card riders, then it makes sense. To avoid to spending millions of dollars to make them comfortable, spend a few thousand dollars to make them into different customers. All of our problems just vapourize and blow away.

    In a sense, right now, we are all similar to cash fare customers in that our fares and passes expire. We have to go to a physical location to get another 1, whereas with the Compass, we can renew/refill at a convenient time and location. It would get people away from cash fares almost permanently, and it would be an excuse to market to people.

    Sure, cash fare riders will still pay for that “extra zone”, but it could be a 1 time thing for them, since they will have an opportunity to buy a new pass at the station. Also, as suggested above, we could get buses to sell them.

    That being said, with this new perspective, it might not be worth getting bus drivers to sell them, because things tend to get stolen and lost, and turning a driver into customer sales rep would make things annoying.

    It’s all about perspective and tangible benefits.

    The employer pass problem that we will face is a different beast altogether.

    I can’t believe how bad this all looked. It could have been a bragging opportunity for Translink, that would have earned back some trust from me, but they seem to be putting out fires. The ill feeling that I felt made me antagonistic.

    I honestly can’t understand how other understood it correctly. Maybe it’s just a matter of being positive.

  • By Eugene Wong, August 15, 2013 @ 7:49 pm

    @ dan t

    I think that you are right. I thought that I read that only about 6,000 riders use cash on a given day, and that there are millions of riders per day. That doesn’t sound right, but still. If only 1% of a million use cash, then that’s 10,000. So, if the facts and math are right, then we are talking about less than a percent, which can be reached through education programs.

    If the card is easy to purchase, then it’s almost pointless to even have that education program.

  • By ???, August 15, 2013 @ 9:22 pm

    I would love to hear details on how the new distanced based fares are calculated. Joyce to UBC compared to Joyce to Metrotown is prime example of unfairness.

    Or perhaps these are time based fares??? That is 30 min, 60 min, and 90 minutes?

  • By Voony, August 16, 2013 @ 12:19 am

    In short

    1/ your explanation (the media release) is pure rubish…
    2/ Your organization has no legal right to impose a double transit fee to people purchasing a cash fare on bus.

    Doing that will expose you to be sued in court.

    You will find more detail (why your explanation are rubish, and why tyou are out of law) here:

    So why not recognizing Translink did a mistake and correct it.

  • By dan t, August 16, 2013 @ 9:10 am


    I agree with your sentiments. In regards to the Employer pass conundrum, communications department should probably have spent a bit more effort on contrasting the new programs, such as replacing the 15% discounted employer pass with the new 14% discounted compass pass.

    Voony, that blog is… very confusing to say the least. You seem to quote disparate parts of the SCBCTA act thinking that they apply to the scenario, but there is already a clear cut law, approved and due to be implemented called the Transit Tariff. Why don’t you have a look at the document?

    Have a look at Section 2, Part B, paragraph 11.a.i , which specifically address the issue in question. As you can see, it’s already law.

  • By Voony, August 16, 2013 @ 9:59 am

    Dan t

    I quote what looks to me the relevant part of SCBCTA act.

    I was unaware of the document you mention.

    That is a decision of the board of directors, but it doesn’t mean the board of directors was allowed to do that.

    If so, you will point me to the relevant clause of the SCBTA.

    I can spot only the clause 223.(11) which allow the boart to override the council of mayors and the translink commissioner, and this clause can be invoked only under very specific circomstance (meet debt obligation).

    Does this “coup” was justified by this circumstance: nope at all.

    So May Translink, provide the legal base it use to bypass the regular tariff change approval by elected offical?

  • By me, August 16, 2013 @ 12:02 pm

    A compass-compatible writer should have been deployed on the buses at the same time as installing the compass-reader.

  • By Simon, August 16, 2013 @ 12:04 pm

    So, say you’re a sporadic rider (or maybe even not). You have $1 left on your card as you enter the bus. Do you pay the difference in cash? Are you eligible for the skytrain transfer?

  • By Angela Chang, August 16, 2013 @ 12:40 pm

    Hi all –
    Thank you for your comments and continued interest in the upcoming Compass Card. It is our goal to ensure a successful transition and I hope to help answer any questions you may have!

    To Ashgill – That’s a great suggestion for the solution. We will also have a transition period where both options will be accepted, and customers will have plenty of time to pick up a Compass Card.

    To David – Visitors to Vancouver also have the option to purchase a Compass ticket (not the same as the Compass Card), which is essentially the same thing as the DayPass we have now. They will have access to the full transit system for a day. This option will be viable to visitors who are only here for a few days, or a short time.

    To Sheba – Those are great suggestions for places to have Compass vending machines. In addition to SkyTrain stations, customers also have the option of loading/reloading their Compass Card online, by phone, or at walk-in centres at Stadium/Chinatown station, Metrotown FareDealer office, or at the downtown West Coast Express office.

    To Angela – The machines to exchange a bus ticket to a Compass ticket would not only take $25 million, but also a long time to implement. A straightforward solution to avoiding the double charge is to obtain a Compass Card, which will allow you to easily transfer from bus to SkyTrain. We are hoping to transition Metro Vancouver transit users into the new Compass system, thus phasing out the paper tickets. The machines would not be a cost-effective solution.

    To Eugene – Thank you for your feedback. Unfortunately, there may be a misunderstanding in the details of the new Compass Card system. We are doing our best to relay the right information to the public and appreciate your understanding in the issue.

    To ??? – There are no new distanced based fares. The Compass Card will follow the same 3-zone system as we currently have.

    To Simon – The Compass Card requires a $6 minimum deposit, that would allow you to enter and exit the system after you’ve made a 3-zone trip. You will be able to reload your card at Compass vending machines, online, or by phone.

  • By Simon, August 16, 2013 @ 1:10 pm

    To Angela Chang

    That was kind of my point. A sporadic user may not pay attention to the amount left on the card. So thinking that their card is still valid (because it still does have cash on it) that person goes onto the bus only to find that it is not. So now they are stuck paying cash, and presumably a double-fare to ride the skytrain.

  • By Josh, August 16, 2013 @ 1:20 pm

    In the end, there needs to be a way to load and/or purchase a card as you enter a bus. Yes, we are all now aware that a card can be loaded at a vending machine, online and on the phone. But can it be done on a bus as you enter.

  • By David M, August 16, 2013 @ 1:48 pm

    I understand the problem, but Translink seriously needs some new PR people – surely they’ve known about this since day one, yet they spring it on the public last minute along with elimination of a bunch of programs designed to get people on transit. This is really going sideways.

    I hope Translink will sell pre-loaded Compass Cards on the ferries, so that those of us visiting Vancouver are able to use it transfer to the SkyTrain at Bridgeport. Once I have one, of course I’ll keep it, but there are a lot of one-time visitors that are going to be shocked to arrive at Bridgeport and have to pay again. On a weekday, that means two two-zone fares.

    It really is a stupid short-sighted decision. I like to support Translink, but lately it has just gone off the rails, making unilateral decisions without any consultation. You’re asking for a public backlash if you keep this up.

  • By Sheba, August 16, 2013 @ 6:30 pm

    I can’t help but think of the saying about how people want change but they don’t want to have to make a change themselves. This really isn’t that big of a deal, and if TransLink installs machines in various locations like I suggested above, then it will be very easy for most people to get either a Compass card or Compass ticket.

    I’ll agree that the PR on this has been uhm less than great. Although this is far from the last minute, considering that we can’t even get a Compass Card for about another 4 months.

    I wonder if anyone here has read this…

  • By Eugene Wong, August 16, 2013 @ 6:35 pm

    @ Angela Chang

    You can blame the media, but I never got a clear presentation from the Buzzer blog either. Yes, I understood that we could get a compass pass, but that isn’t my point. My point is that Translink came across as condescending.

    By the way, it wasn’t you that I complained about. It was the company’s policies.

  • By mitch, August 17, 2013 @ 3:46 am

    I’d like to see (compass/fare) ticket dispensers in high-volume bus areas, like the UBC loop or down by the Metrotown bus stops.

  • By zack, August 17, 2013 @ 2:46 pm

    I’ve heard some rumors swirling that once the Compass system is active, SkyTrain gates will be shut, and the only way to open them is a compass card. I’ve also heard that passes will still be accepted on buses but they can’t be used to open the faregates. What do you know about these revelations if they are true or not, and secondly will the U-Pass version of the Compass card arrive on the same time as the other Compass cards?

  • By Sheba, August 17, 2013 @ 4:14 pm

    The point of Compass Card is to use them to get through fare gates. After a few months the gates will close and the only way through them will be with the card.

    Compass Card will work across the entire system – “It is only customers who purchase fares on buses with cash who will not be able to use those transfers to transfer to rail.”

  • By Sam Mumug, August 18, 2013 @ 7:28 pm

    I agree that the “double transit fee” problem is overblown. For example, Translink can set up something so its customers can order their Compass Cards by mail or online during (or even after) the transition period. And Translink can also sell those Compass Cards at the existing network of fare dealers (7-Eleven, Safeway, etc).

  • By Ivan, August 18, 2013 @ 9:57 pm

    To whom it may concern (Translink Staff):

    Will the VISA PayWave and MasterCard’s PayPass work with the Compass prox reader system?

  • By Angela Chang, August 19, 2013 @ 12:04 pm

    To Ivan – As of right now, no. We are focusing on introducing the new Compass Card system to the public. Once that’s done, we will look into adding other features to add to the customer experience, for example PayPass or a cellphone Compass app.

  • By Kevin W., August 19, 2013 @ 3:38 pm

    Maybe Translink should just sell compass tickets (rather than passes) on buses? Passengers who rarely use transit can purchase an one-time compass ticket onboard and then transfer onto skytrain and seabus.

  • By Cliff, August 20, 2013 @ 5:14 am

    Just curious, if someone were to pay cash to get to Braid Station on a bus in Coquitlam, would they then be required to pay a 2 zone fare for the bus, then another one zone for the SkyTrain?

  • By SS, August 20, 2013 @ 2:12 pm

    Braid station bus loop is in zone 3, except for Bay 6 (128/154/155)…

  • By Bill Kinkaid, August 21, 2013 @ 11:46 am

    Sam – ordering Compass cards by mail or online sounds like a great idea. As long as it’s implemented better than the Treo windshield stickers for the Port Mann Bridge. We got one last year fairly quickly, but bought a new car in early May and had to order a new one. We’re still waiting.

  • By Ben Kennedy, August 21, 2013 @ 2:50 pm

    So “FareSaver” pricing is being scrapped? In the example given in the “update” section at the end of the article, the trip costs 31% more than it would if paid by using today’s 3-zone FareSaver tickets ($5.50 vs. $4.20)—not to mention the $6 mandatory deposit, if I understand correctly. Sounds like a crappy deal for the customer.

  • By Voony, August 21, 2013 @ 9:27 pm

    Ah ah, Ben Kennedy, you have to remember that this whole faregate/compass stuff is supposed to bring efficiency in the system, catch fare evaders (all of them)…and even clean the Skytrain of undesirable people…that is probably the reason for the steep fare increase, isn’it?

    But another question:

    where we will be able to get refund of this famous $6 deposit.

    In London, it is possible at every station (in Hong Kong, not so sure, but at least at the MTR counter of the airport station)…but where in Vancouver?

    I notice, all questions has been answered, except mine, so far, but I am patient, I understand reading the SCBC act is not that easy. finding the legal ground for the tariff change, even less…

  • By frankie a., August 22, 2013 @ 2:35 am

    how will i be able to tell whether my compass card has enough loaded on it to cover the fare or whether it is a dud card? or whether it has been swiped twice by accident, or maybe not swiped upon exiting?

  • By Angela Chang, August 22, 2013 @ 8:29 am

    To Ben – The example was only meant to explain the deposit fee. It doesn’t include the discount that the Compass Card offers. Once we learn the details of how it works, we would be happy to share with the Buzzer readers.

    To Voony – Thanks for your ongoing interest in the upcoming Compass Card. We don’t have that information yet, but when we do, we would be happy to share with you and other Buzzer readers.

    To frankie a. – You will be able to check via online, by phone, or at SkyTrain vending machines. When you tap in and tap out, you will also see how much value you have left on your card. During the transition period, we hope to have everyone become accustomed to tapping in and tapping out with their Compass Card.

  • By Kevin W., August 22, 2013 @ 8:27 pm

    Hi Angela, I have several questions regarding the compass card:
    First and foremost, are riders with monthly passes that are entitled to travel through all zones (i.e. Concession passes, U-Pass) required to tap out when getting off a bus?
    Second of all, will Translink put up conspicuous signs on buses to remind riders to tap off when alighting?
    Lastly, what happen when we lose our compass cards? I’ve heard about the register function, but how exactly will it work? We’ll report for loss and then visit a customer service center? If the center is along skytrain, it is really likely that people who don’t live near skytrain, me for instance, will have to take a bus and then transfer onto the skytrain, which means we’ll have to pay a second fare….
    Is upgrading station TVMs at stations really that impossible? Translink does not have to upgrade all of them; one to two per station, depending on passenger volume, should be sufficient.
    Thanks in advance.

  • By Angela Chang, August 26, 2013 @ 12:50 pm

    Hi Kevin – Thanks for the great questions! I’ll try and answer them as best I can.

    1) Yes, those with Monthly FareCards loaded onto their Compass Card will still be required to tap in and tap out, as they will be in Fare Paid Zone. Tapping in and out make it easy and convenient to pay for fare on buses.
    2) TransLink will be offering more information as well as signage for customers before and during the transition period.
    3) If you lose your Compass Card and report it, you can pick up a new one at current FareDealers or retail outlets, and have your balance transferred to a new card.
    4) Upgrading select station TVMs would cost $9 million, not including maintenance fees and associated costs. The solution would not be cost-effective as it will only affect 6,000 customers out of our daily 1.2 million rides.

    We will be releasing more information as beta testing rolls around – stayed tuned! Thank you for your interest in the upcoming Compass Card.

  • By Corey Burger, August 26, 2013 @ 4:39 pm

    The people who are going to be affected by this are going to be overwhelmingly poor or tourists (like me). Given that, I wouldn’t be shocked if Translink got sued by one of the homeless advocacy groups over this policy. Given Voony’s comments, I suspect that they would lose and would be forced by court order to implement these transfers.

  • By Raymond, August 27, 2013 @ 1:02 am

    I have an interesting thought on the propose tap-in tap-out system. Let’s say I want to take the 160 from downtown to Coquitlam. I get on the bus, tap-in, and then discretely tap-out while I walk to the back of the bus. When I get to Coquitlam, I don’t bother tapping-out again on the way out. It’s not suspicious because the trip is a 3-zone fare anyways. However, because I tapped out when I first got on the bus, I just cheated the system by paying a 1-zone fare on a 3-zone trip.

    Is this scenario possible on the Compass?

  • By eee, August 27, 2013 @ 7:52 am

    People will just refuse to tap at all on the bus – just like now people refuse to pay. Look at all the homeless with smelly bags that ride around all day for free.

  • By Bill Kinkaid, August 27, 2013 @ 6:01 pm

    I’ve read through what’s on the website and haven’t found what I want to know. If I buy a monthly pass for one zone, how do I addfare when I want to travel to a second zone? Presumably I will spend $91 to load it for a month and it will let me ride unlimited as long as I stay in Zone 1. What if I get on downtown and tap out at Metrotown? Does it ask me to pay more then or what happens?

  • By Big Ed, August 27, 2013 @ 9:25 pm

    As an occasional tourist to Vancouver, I find it convenient to have a small supply of daypasses (currently on the magnetic card)to pay for the bus at the ferry. As I recall, these can be purchased on the ferry, which should be promoted more. Loading the bus takes loads of time with people fumbling for change and I frequently see the driver letting people ride for free with the idea they’ll pay at Bridgeport (yeah, right!) If everyone had a pass before boarding, this run might go a lot quicker and might even make money


    1) Will the Compass daypass be sold on the ferry?

    2) In the event that I don’t make it to Vancouver soon, can I send in my mag stripe passes and get a refund or a Compass card?

  • By Big Ed, August 27, 2013 @ 9:31 pm

    Someone earlier in the thread correctly pointed out that LA Metro bus drivers sell their cards (called TAP). It’s great customer service, but boy is it clumsy. When my wife and I were there and wanted to buy a daypass, the driver took a package of cards out of his shirt pocket, unwrapped them (the package was wrapped in cellophane), peeled off two, communed with the farebox controls, then we inserted our $12 ($5 each for the pass, $1 for the card) in the farebox. This was at a transit loop at the end of the line so weren’t really holding up things as people were boarding and Tapping as we stood out of the way. Would be a different story mid-route, though.

  • By Jatt, August 27, 2013 @ 11:08 pm

    Here is a solution..
    the people who bought ticket with cash..
    just let them board the skytrain like they do now..
    There is expiry date and time on it..
    Where is the problem?

  • By Andrew, August 30, 2013 @ 4:57 am

    is there a technological difference between the fare the bus fare boxes dispense at the moment and the pre-paid faresaver tickets?
    if not, i have a whole bunch of pre-paid fare media i better use up soon if there doesn’t end up being some kind of trade-in program

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