ALERT! : More info
Translink Buzzer Blog

Tap in like a pro


21011495 Compass_olympic village_60

Just a few weeks into our first customers using Compass, and our Compass Card readers have already registered thousands of transactions through our system!

“Tap in and tap out” is a bit of a mantra for us here on the Compass project, but if you’re using a Compass Card for the first time, you might be wondering what exactly that means.

Is it like a secret handshake? Can you swipe it through a slot? Insert like a credit card? Swoop in and out as fast as possible? Close your eyes and tap your heels together three times? Nope, not quite.

How to tap in (and out!)

Hold your Compass Card (or Ticket) flat against the card reader, fare gate or station validator until it beeps or until the fare gates open (once we close them later in 2014, that is). The screen display should also change and give you a message.

First time?

The first time you use your new Compass Card, you’ll need to hold your card on the reader just a smidge longer (think “one-one thousand, two-one-thousand”) until the screen says “Card updated.” This gives the system time to recognize that the pass is loaded on the card and ready for use.

If you try to remove your Card too quickly, you’ll get a red X indicating that it didn’t load properly. Simply try again—this time for a bit longer—and it should load just fine.

Once the Card is loaded, your taps after that will be much faster and smoother. Before you know it, you’ll be tap, tap, tapping along like a pro!

What’s next?

Right now, BC Bus Pass holders and TransLink and operating company employees are tapping in and out on the system. CNIB customers will be coming online in the next few weeks as well and by the end of January, we’ll have about 80,000 people using Compass.

We’ll be rolling Compass out to all our customers in phases over the coming months, with West Coast Express expected this spring, and most remaining customers this summer. Stay tuned for more information in the coming months about how and when to get and use your Compass Card.

Before you know it, everyone will be tapping in and tapping out of our system and taking advantage of the flexibility and convenience of Compass and features like Balance Protection and AutoLoad with registered cards.

Got questions?

Ask away at


  • By Mike, January 6, 2014 @ 5:42 pm

    Could you produce some tutorial videos on Compass card usage for example, on bus readers and at faregates? Text instructions are nice but sometimes it’s more helpful to see the product in action, either in photos or video.

  • By Tone1point1, January 6, 2014 @ 5:55 pm

    How is TransLink accommodating an attendant who accompanies a rider who requires one? This problem was raised to me during beta testing by a mother who must accompany her differently-abled son on the bus. How are Compass cards going to deal with such attendants who are fare exempt?

  • By Sheba, January 6, 2014 @ 9:53 pm

    Mike – check out their youtube videos at

    Tone1point1 – copied from asking about this kind of scenario

    “If your husband is a registered HandyCard user with an Access Transit Compass Card and travels with an attendant on conventional transit, then the attendant with a personalized Access Transit Compass Card can travel with him at no charge. The accessible fare gates at SkyTrain stations are designed for people with disabilities either traveling alone or with their attendant.”

  • By Pamela Findling - Buzzer Contributor, January 7, 2014 @ 8:28 am

    Hi all. Right you are, Sheba. Thanks so much. We’ll also have additional videos coming in the next few months as we move closer to widespread transition, so stay tuned.

  • By Ric, January 7, 2014 @ 10:16 pm

    If i have my Compass card in my cell phone case will the compass reader be able to read the card through the cell phone case?

  • By Pamela Findling - Buzzer Contributor, January 8, 2014 @ 11:52 am

    Hi, Ric. The answer is, it depends. We had some Beta testers telling us that this did, indeed work, while others said it didn’t. Still others told us that sometimes it did, and sometimes it didn’t. The cards are not designed to be used this way, and may not work consistently, so we ask customers not to tap this way.

  • By eh, January 8, 2014 @ 1:47 pm

    Hi, you said we can auto-reload the Compass Card. What if the reload was successful (with a confirmation #) but the reader registered the reload as non existent. Customer will then have to pay for the fare again at the gate just to use transit and follow up with Translink admin, thereby incurring extra expenses just because of the reader error/malfunction. How are you going to address this potential issue?

  • By Pamela Findling - Buzzer Contributor, January 8, 2014 @ 3:05 pm

    Hey, eh. If you set up your card to AutoLoad, you will not actually get charged until the pass is successfully loaded on your card. This means, for instance, if you set up the card to load a monthly pass each month, you won’t get charged until you actually tap in during that month. When you tap, the pass you’ve requested through AutoLoad will automatically load onto your card. If you’re not sure, you can go online and see your transactions to check.

    If on the other hand, you do a one-time purchase (for instance, you just go to the website and purchase a DayPass), you will be charged immediately. It takes some time for the message to get to all our readers on the system, so we’re telling our customers that if they’re purchasing passes online or over the phone, to wait two hours before they tap in (if you do it at a Compass Vending Machine, it’s instant).

    These types of loads were part of our testing process and while we’re confident they’ll work, on the off-chance they don’t load properly, our customer service people will happily help you out and make it right.

  • By Douglas, January 8, 2014 @ 6:17 pm

    Have noticed a lot of people using Compass cards this week. Have also noticed, a few times, people who tapped in didn’t tap out. Each time a non-English speaking senior.

    Also see people trying to “swipe” the card across the reader, not making contact long enough to get read. They have to try multiple times until it works.

    Need more reminders on how to use the card on site.

  • By ted, January 8, 2014 @ 6:27 pm

    What happens if you don’t tap out on the skytrain (for example?)

  • By Drew, January 8, 2014 @ 9:42 pm

    If I want to claim lost property at Stadium Station will I have to tap in and tap out and be charged a one zone fare?

  • By AL, January 11, 2014 @ 6:53 pm

    Why has there been NO indication of in-progress public comment period about YVR add fare not published on the Buzzer blog, the main Translink website, or the translink commission website?

    I only know about it because of a short article in Metro paper the day before Christmas when most people were already on holidays. An attempt to get as little public feedback as possible?

    My take, it seems like an attempt to force everyone except airport employees to pay $5 more when leaving YVR, which only makes transit even less competitive with taxi, parking, etc. As a minimum, with everyone needing to tap in AND out, it should be easy to charge $2.50 add fare each way to reflect actual usage…I’d rather just see YVR become a zone and charge by number of zones passed through…ie 3 zones from vancouver, 2 from Richmond, 3 from surrey unless travelling via vancouver which can be confirmed with taps.

  • By Reva, January 11, 2014 @ 7:32 pm

    @ Douglas: The first batch of Compass cards was released to annual BC government pass holders, i.e. people with disabilities and low-income seniors. These cards are valid in all zones at all times like a 3-zone pass. Since there is no financial penalty for not tapping out, there’s no huge incentive to learn to remember to do that just yet. Once everyone is using the card, it will be easier to remember to tap out because they will see everyone else doing it.

    As for the swiping and not holding the card down long enough, the card readers just aren’t that fast. “Tapping” is a bit of a misnomer. You don’t just tap. You have to press your card right up against the pad and hold it there for at least 2 to 3 seconds. It takes long enough to make you start panicking that it is not going to work. That is why people are making swiping motions and trying again and again. It is quite frustrating actually. No matter which direction I place my card on the pad, frontwards, backwards, upside down, in a plastic cover, not in a plastic cover, on buses, at train stations, I’ve tried everything, it takes at least 2 to 3 seconds to process the card. Everyone else I’ve spoken to with the card has had the same experience.

    Is this how it’s supposed to be? Are there plans to improve processing speed? Doesn’t matter to me either way, it sure beats walking, I’m just interested in what’s actually supposed to happen. But I’m sure if more people knew that it takes longer than just a tap, it will keep the frustration to a minimum during the changeover to this new system.

  • By Ric, January 11, 2014 @ 10:53 pm

    Why is the family deal on Sunday and holidays for holders of monthly pass holders cancelled?

  • By Pamela Findling - Buzzer Contributor, January 13, 2014 @ 6:32 pm

    @ Douglas: Great feedback! One of the great things about rolling Compass out in phases is it gives us an opportunity to work through some of these things. We’re looking at ways to help get the message out there loud and clear reminding people (including those who don’t speak English) to tap in AND tap out. Stay tuned…

    @Ted: If you don’t tap out, you’ll be charged the maximum three zone fare.

    @Drew: Compass is designed to allow you to tap in and tap out at the same station within a short amount of time and not charge you if you don’t travel anywhere. So if you’re just entering the fare paid zone, then exiting within a short period of time, and you don’t actually travel, you won’t get charged.

    @Al: The Commissioner is doing consultation right now. If approved, the change would not affect monthly pass holders or people with program passes. It would add the $5 AddFare to people who use Stored Value for trips originating at the Airport for travel to Bridgeport Station and beyond, or to DayPasses purchased at the Airport.

    @Reva: We’ve heard from several customers, now and during Beta testing, that tapping on some buses is slow, especially compared to fare gates. We’re working with our partner to improve this speed and are confident that we’ll be able to make adjustments in the coming months.

    @Ric The cancellation of the family deal on Sundays and holidays was part of the tariff changes announced this summer. You can read more about it here:

  • By Twozoner, January 13, 2014 @ 8:52 pm

    What happen if you tap in and then the reader malfunctions (law averages, it will at some point)so that you cannot tap out? Will the customer be dinged for 3 zones? What happens if they don’t have that much on their card? The appropriate response is to not charge the customer at all for a translink malfunction but I am curious to hear the official position on this, so that the public can be informed of what charges they should prepare for.

  • By Ric, January 14, 2014 @ 12:22 pm

    Why was the decision made to cancel the sunday and holiday family deal?

  • By Pamela Findling - Buzzer Contributor, January 14, 2014 @ 2:41 pm

    @Ric The cancellation of the family deal on Sundays and holidays was part of the tariff changes announced this summer. You can read more about it here:

  • By Pamela Findling - Buzzer Contributor, January 14, 2014 @ 2:57 pm

    @Twozoner: We certainly hope this doesn’t happen! But on the off-chance it does, we’re pretty reasonable folks. Though the system would treat it as a three-zone trip and charge accordingly, you can give us a call and we’ll make it right for you. We want to make sure no one gets charged for a trip longer than the one they took.

    Every card must, at the very least, have the $6 deposit on it plus 1 cent in order to tap into the system. If Compass needs to, it will dip into the $6 deposit to cover the cost of the trip. In order to tap in again, you’ll need to replenish the $6 deposit.

  • By Ric, January 14, 2014 @ 10:36 pm

    Pamela, I have read the tariff changes pages and it states that the sunday and holiday family deal is cancelled. However, it doesn’t indicate as to why the decision was made to cancel this deal

    I am wondering as to why the decision was made to cancel the sunday and holiday deal?

  • By Pamela Findling - Buzzer Contributor, January 15, 2014 @ 10:25 am

    Hi Ric. After reviewing our discount programs, the board decided to eliminate the Sunday/Holiday family program. The program was originally introduced at a time when we needed to increase ridership and it was offered as an incentive. We now serve 1.2 million rides a day and, given that we are continually challenged to be fiscally responsible, in the current environment, it no longer made good financial sense to continue to offer the program.

  • By Raymond, January 18, 2014 @ 11:49 am

    Hi there, it says on the compass card page on the site that compass will be rolled out to the general public in spring/summer of 2014, so that means the end of march i can get a compass card.

  • By Pamela Findling - Buzzer Contributor, January 20, 2014 @ 10:16 am

    Hi, Raymond. Not neccessarily. The exact timeline and roll out plan is still being determined as we need to do it in phases to make sure everyone has a good experience with it. We won’t be makig the card available to everyone in the general public all at once (suddenly unleashing hundreds of thousands of Compass Cards on Metro Vancouver would be challenging!). It’s more likely you’ll be able to get your card in the summer sometime. Stay tuned!

  • By Pamela Findling - Buzzer Contributor, January 20, 2014 @ 10:17 am

    Also, West Coast Express customers will get their cards in late spring, the general public distribution will follow.

  • By Raymond, May 17, 2014 @ 9:41 pm

    If compass cards are going to be available to the general public in summer 2014, then will the compass vending machines be already in the stations by then.

  • By Pamela Findling - Buzzer Contributor, May 20, 2014 @ 10:16 am

    Hi, Raymond. The Compass Vending Machines are already in many stations, but yes, they will be installed in the remaining stations prior to transition to the general public. For the most updated information on timing, please visit our website:

  • By raymond, June 28, 2014 @ 11:56 pm

    Hi there, its summer already and the compass card is still not available to the general public, and the compass timeline still has a update from april, whats going on.

  • By Allen Tung, June 30, 2014 @ 9:39 am

    Hi Raymond! Thanks for your interest and enthusiasm in Compass. We’re eager to roll it out, too, but we also want to make sure everything is working smoothly before we close the gates. Stay tuned for an update!

  • By ???, June 29, 2014 @ 10:18 am

    CTV provided an update… it’s too slow

  • By ???, June 30, 2014 @ 9:29 pm

    NW states it’s under review….

Other Links to this Post

  1. The Buzzer blog » Behind the scenes with the Compass team — January 16, 2014 @ 4:24 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Please read our Participation Guidelines before you comment.