ALERT! : More info
Translink Buzzer Blog

Behind the scenes with the Compass team


Doug testing a Compass card

Doug testing a Compass card

The Compass project is in full swing after our first customers tapped in on the system a few weeks ago. We already have over 600,000 taps in the system and about 80,000 Compass Cards will be in use by end of January! Yay, Compass!

Daily cutoff time

Now that you know how to tap in and tap out, it’s time to get a bit more technical and give you a behind-the-scenes look at some of the activity under way.

For the transit buffs out there, do you know when one day ends and another begins on transit?

Since there’s always a bus on the road at any given time of the day, the cutoff time is actually quite arbitrary.  This makes delivery of an automated fare collection system that deals with the ‘start’ and ‘end’ times of the bus service both tricky and difficult to test.

For instance, the last N10 bus arrives Downtown at 5:27 a.m. on Sundays and actually belongs to the Saturday schedule. However, the first #10 Bus leaves Marpole Loop at 5:26 a.m. on Sunday and is part of the Sunday schedule.

So what does it mean for Compass?

For Compass, the transition occurs at 4:00 a.m., the time when the fewest number of passengers are on the system, according to ridership statistics.

The secret society of Compass

Between 3:30 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. when most of us are sound asleep, William Hui, System Engineer and Doug MacKinnon, Manager of Compass Implementation, are wide awake! And no, before you go there, they are not planning a heist or dumpster diving for Happy Meal collectibles. They are part of the ‘secret society of Compass’.

No wonder William, Doug, and their teammates always seem so positive and together first thing in the morning around here! They are the behind-the-scene heroes who rise in the wee hours of the night to run tests using a variety of Compass Card and Compass Ticket products, replicating numerous transfer scenarios and verifying that the fare charges are correct.  Their mission is to ensure our customers can tap in and tap out and transfer seamlessly before and after 4:00 a.m. and they have been doing a fantastic job!

Though William and Doug might be a bit sleep-deprived these days, they are super stoked: it’s just one of the ways we’re working to make sure the system is right for our customers.

Did you know?

The mobile validators on buses are bi-directional. This means you can still exit (and enter) through the front doors – tapping in and out on the same validator. It means that on buses that  have all-door loading, such as the 99 B-Line, you can  tap in (and tap out) at the back doors too.

I hope this update has whet your appetite for more Compass info. I plan on updating you more on Compass in the future!


  • By Dennis, January 16, 2014 @ 5:15 pm

    Please tell me there’s a good reason that there isn’t an isolated test system where devs can test the 4am edge case without being up at 4am…

  • By Julia Ren - Buzzer Contributer, January 17, 2014 @ 10:38 am

    @Dennis Great question! I mean who wants to be on a bus at 4:00 am? The truth is that our testing is performed on test equipments as well as the actual devices. Especially since a networked bus driving around the city adds a whole new set of potential issues. Also, if the test was conducted during “normal” hours, we would have to do something “abnormal” to the system, such as changing the server time. Since Compass is a complex, integrated system, these changes may affect the test results so having something work in the lab doesn’t guarantee success in the field.

  • By Meraki, January 23, 2014 @ 6:19 pm

    Does this mean people tapping off a NightBus post 4am will be charged an addfare since it will now be the next day and no longer subject to the “1 zone fare for all zones after 6:30pm” structure?

  • By Julia Ren - Buzzer Contributor, January 24, 2014 @ 9:04 am

    @ Meraki, Thanks for the questions!
    The off-peak discount is from 6:30pm to “end of service” on weekdays and all day Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. The “end of service” for Compass is defined as 4:00am. However if you tap in before 4:00am, you will not be charged for an AddFare when you tap out, even after 4:00am.

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.