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Translink Buzzer Blog

Compass is no longer just for people with super hearing!

We’ve heard from Beta testers and a few Compass Card users that the volume of the beeps on bus Compass Card readers was nearly impossible to hear—unless of course you have the kind of hearing that would make Superman jealous.

“That’s not OK,” we thought. “We’ve got to send our engineers out ASAP to fix the problem!”

Here’s what we did
System Engineer David Grabowski and his team approached some stakeholders interested in adjusting the volume on the readers. The test group ran through many scenarios to replicate the noisy environment you’d experience when tapping in and tapping out of a bus.

We hear the testing process was quite a production; you name it, there were engines running, fans blowing, horns honking, and Dave yelling. We even suspect pots and pans might have been used liberally to increase the noise level.

By the end of the testing, there was complete agreement that a volume setting of 9 (out of 10) was needed for our customers to hear the beeps. (The volume for the Compass readers on community shuttles will remain at 6 because the reader is closer to the driver’s head.)

The result of all this was that a new, more robust volume was chosen and Davie and his team went ahead and updated the software on Mobile Validators on all buses to increase the tap volumes.

We’re pretty sure you’ll notice the difference!


All you need to do is tap

Tap, tap, tap!

Tap, tap, tap!

Got your Compass Card already? Remember, the best way to tap your card is to hold it flat against the reader until the message on the screen changes.

If this doesn’t work, please call the number on the back of your card or email with as much information as you can (route #, time, bus #, location, error message, etc).

Over the next few months, as we continue to introduce more customer groups to the Compass system, we’ll be working on further fine tuning the system. As always, your input is critical to the success of Compass.


  • By Jack, April 15, 2014 @ 7:08 pm

    When are compass cards available for the general public? Thanks!

  • By ???, April 16, 2014 @ 8:29 am

    Any chance we can lower the bus stop cowbell inside the buses… hate finding the only seat left is under the speakers.

  • By Cliff, April 16, 2014 @ 2:25 pm

    When it becomes possible to use one’s NFC enabled phone to access the system, you’ll be able to set your phone to vibrate when you hold it up to the reader.

    Real fun stuff on the horizon once TransLink gets comfortable with Compass.

  • By Julia Ren - Buzzer Contributor, April 16, 2014 @ 2:51 pm

    @Jack, rolling out Compass to our customers who take 1.2 million trips a day is a big task, and we’re taking the time to do it right. To ensure a successful transition we’re rolling Compass out in phases, a few groups of customers at a time. We have introduced the Compass Card to three groups of customers already, BC Bus Pass clients, TransLink employees and as well as a portion of Canadian Institute for the Blind (CNIB) clients are already tapping away. Next up will be the WCE customers, UPass customers, then the general public will follow. At the end of each phase, we always make sure to learn from our experience and ensure we are ready for the next step. More details on the roll out can be found via the ’Compass Timeline’ page on

  • By Julia Ren - Buzzer Contributor, April 16, 2014 @ 2:52 pm

    @???, thanks for the comment. I will make sure to forward it to the appropriate department.

  • By Julia Ren - Buzzer Contributor, April 16, 2014 @ 2:56 pm

    @Cliff, I agree with you. The Compass system has tons of potential. Utilizing the NFC technology on our mobile phones is definitely one of things we are looking into, for once the transition is complete. We’re definitely excited about the future possibilities, thanks for your support and patience, as always!

  • By Mike, April 16, 2014 @ 3:19 pm

    Ugh, the beeping is already annoying enough. I guarantee there will be backlash over the constant shrill beeping of folks tapping in/out.

  • By Geoff smith, April 16, 2014 @ 3:29 pm

    My mother and father in-law are bus drivers and all this violence towards bus drivers needs to end. Ive been thinking that I should do something about it recently.. I have started not showing the bus driver my proof of payment unless it is my first bus and I put my ticket in. Now don’t get me wrong, I am on your(drivers) side. I walk on, I give a friendly hello to the bus driver and proceed to walk on. I have had 1 occasion that which the bus driver asked me proof and disagreed with me. I went on to tell her that I am on her side, that I am trying to do this to make a stand against translink trying to make bus drivers enforce fare payment, But she was very rude to me, saying that is not the rules but ended up saying “ill let you on this time but next time, im not going to pick you up or let you do that again.”, I am being polite and I cannot express enough saying that I am on their side. What is your opinion on this? I also wonder what you would think of if translink had the same system as the skytrain except obviously without the compass fare gates? They have transit police patrolling stations and riding trains enforcing fares, which is their job! You don’t see a person sitting at the pay gates from start of service until end of service, so why should bus drivers have to be responsible for people paying? I see white shirt skytrain employees that do not enforce fares, or I have not seen them do it. This violence is creating a huge problem for bus drivers and the public, so please translink, hire some more transit police for the other regions of Vancouver. If translink is so worried about fare evasion, then step up the transit police force, hire some officers, have transit police waiting at mid points of bus routes, have more transit police at bus terminals checking fares at the entrance to the bus. There are so many things that translink can do to enforce fares and obviously making drivers do it is not the answer unless you want your employees to have to worry about getting assaulted/harassed, just please make the drivers safer for everyones sake. Please stop trying to make coast mountain bus company enforce your fares, if you care so much about fare evasion translink refer to the above. It is sickening that ppl are assaulting bus drivers over 2$-5$ I personally think that if we had the same system as the skytrain, there would be less conflict between riders and drivers. Fare enforcement is completely different that enforcing the rules on the bus ie, eating/drinking, disruptive people etc etc This has been on my mind lately, as I see bus drivers refusing fares which creates conflict, which then in turn everyone else on the bus has to suffer being late etc. Bus drivers should inform, not enforce! Please, stop the violence. And feel free to share any stories/experiences with bus drivers involving fare enforcement.
    Bus drivers reject translink request for more involvement in fare enforcement.

    Union President Nathan Woods says the answer is no: “We have spent the last 10 years trying to remove the possibility of conflict with our riders. Requesting fares has always been one of the most confrontational methods that we get into assaults. So we continue to say we will continue to meet, greet and interact with our riders.”

    Woods says assaults on bus drivers are up, adding passengers are taking out their frustration when it comes to service deficiencies on drivers

  • By Keith R, April 16, 2014 @ 5:15 pm

    When the Compass equivalent system was deployed in Brisbane in 2010 it was done to all customers within a couple of months. Is there any reason why here in Vancouver it is taking so long? Don’t blame the rain :-), it rains a lot in Brisbane too.

  • By Julia Ren - Buzzer Contributor, April 17, 2014 @ 12:10 pm

    @Mike, thanks for your comment. The volume adjustment on buses was a direct result of customer feedback, we were told that it was hard to hear the “tap” on a noisy bus. The beeps you hear when customers tap in and out on a bus is quite brief, so I hope it won’t cause you too much uncomfortability.

  • By Julia Ren - Buzzer Contributor, April 17, 2014 @ 12:15 pm

    @Keith R, thanks for your comment. It’s important to note that the Compass system is different than the system in Brisbane — although looks similar, Compass has different software, business rules, and processes. i.e. When I lived in Brisbane, I remember the fare structure to be distance based, is it not? That is very different than the zone based structure we have in Vancouver (for now, at least). It’s like comparing an iPhone to an Android :)
    Plus as I was mentioning to Jack, we are taking the time to do it right and ensure a successful launch.

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, April 17, 2014 @ 12:48 pm

    Hi Geoff:

    Below is a response to your comment from our VP of Operations for CMBC. Also, you might be interested in the “Don’t Touch the Operator” campaign spearheaded by the Transit Police –

    “Thank you for taking the time to share your concerns for our operators’ safety, and in particular the safety of your transit operator mother and father-in-law. Like you, at Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC), we want every one of our employees to go home safe to their families at the end of their shifts.

    Our commitment to reducing violence in the workplace includes transit operator training in customer service, safe driving, and conflict avoidance. Another key part of operator training is fare collection procedures. Transit Operators are expected to meet, greet and interact with customers by observing and listening to the activity at the farebox and Compass validator at the front entrance to the bus. If a customer does not have valid fare, Operators are expected to provide customers with some guidance on what their options might be e.g. try tapping the card again or pay cash. If a customer doesn’t leave the bus, subject to safety and customer service considerations, transit operators can choose to advise the passenger that they could be subject to a fine. Operators are not expected to enforce fares as this is the role of the Transit Police and Transit Security.

    Transit Police and Transit Security support our operators by conducting regular patrols and deploying staff to watch over certain transit hubs and routes when and where the risk of assault may be higher. You may also be aware of the recently launched “Don’t touch the Operator” campaign to raise awareness about transit operators and what is appropriate behavior when interacting with them.

    In the event our operators find themselves in an unsafe situation, they have a number of tools available to them, including a GPS radio system and emergency buttons on our vehicles. We are also working with the transit operator’s union, Unifor 111, on a new pilot project to test safety shields.

    I would be remiss though if I didn’t remind you that you need to do your part as a transit customer and have your proof of fare payment with you at all times including showing your transit ticket to our operators when you board one of our buses.

    Thank you again for sharing your concerns with us.

    One assault is one too many.


    Stan Sierpina
    Vice President, Operations, Coast Mountain Bus Company”

  • By Sheba, April 17, 2014 @ 3:44 pm

    I’ve ridden the bus twice this week with the new beep. First on the 145 where it was really loud, and then on the 106 where it was at a more humane volume. I think it’s still going to need a bit of tweaking to get the volume on each type of bus just right.

    Now can we lower the volume a notch at Skytrain stations? Those ones are still annoyingly loud. Same with the validators at Metrotown Station – it’s a lower pitched beep but it’s still too loud.

  • By Geoff Smith, April 17, 2014 @ 5:30 pm I would encourage everyone to take a look at this

  • By Geoff Smith, April 17, 2014 @ 5:56 pm

    Hello stan, thank you for taking the time to
    respond to my post, very much appreciated! I
    understand what translink may expect of their
    employees but I have a problem directly with
    translink’s requests for bus drivers to be more
    involved in fare enforcement. I get that the driver
    has some responsiblity of watching the farebox
    and making sure it is the correct amount, as then
    the operator should of course advise the passenger
    of a incorrect amount.

    My issue is that I have witnessed multiple occasions
    where the operator has refused entry onto the bus
    because the passenger was .25 short, that doesn’t
    seem right to me. Situations like that can escalate
    to the point where major conflict and possible violence
    occurs affecting the passengers on the bus, the operator,
    and the persons/party. I do understand that fare
    enforcement is not the only reason why violence and
    conflict occurs, I have helped a bus driver deal with
    intoxicated teenagers creating a peaceful atmosphere
    and eliminating the conflict! Either there is a problem
    with the outline of translink’s training program or
    there is a serious problem with how operators handle

    I personally feel that if translink eliminated fare
    enforcement policies, there would be a drastic change
    in conflict and violence. I also think that doing this
    will speed up service and make the general public feel more
    assured they will arrive at their destination on time because
    the drivers will not have to inspect every single
    person who enters the bus! No one will have to worry
    about violence breaking out over a small fee! If the skytrain can
    run without enforcing fares at the gates, why can’t the bus?!
    What difference does it really make to have someone
    pay at the skytrain compared to the bus? Skytrain, there is no
    supervision at the pay gates. On the bus, there is
    an operator enforcing every single fare. That just doesn’t
    make sense to me.. Why do we need a bus driver to make
    sure every single person pays? The skytrain sure doesnt
    have the enforcement like the buses do.

    It’s been obvious the past few years requesting fares has
    always been one of the most confrontational
    methods that they get into assaults. So I ask you,
    why do you NEED a bus driver to enforce the fares?
    It just seems that translink is more concerned with
    fare evasion than the safety of their employees, given
    that recently requested that metro vancouver bus drivers
    be more enforcing involving fares. Bottem line is that
    if the skytrain can operate without constant fare
    supervision, then there is absolutely no reason the
    bus cannot run the same way.

    I will continue to have my proof of payment with me at
    all times but I am refusing to present it to the driver, because
    it is NOT his/her responsibility. I will not stop
    my protest until I see more care for CMBC, and passengers.
    I have been riding the bus for 10 years, and I have always
    paid my fare, I always do! I take the bus 2-5 times everyday
    and I feel, no, I KNOW that if you remove fare enforcement
    from drivers that they will be safer, feel safer, and
    not have to go to work everyday worrying about thugs
    beating him/her up because of a 3$ fare. Remove that
    and bring peace!!

    Thank you for taking the time.

    Geoff Smith
    Stop the violence against bus drivers (SVABD)
    Model bus rider
    PS, Open your eyes translink, the safety of employees and
    the public is more important than your revenue.…/bus-drivers-reject-translink…/

  • By Julia Ren - Buzzer Contributor, April 22, 2014 @ 10:20 am

    @Sheba, thanks for your feedback, we will continue to monitor the tap volumes.

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