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Santa taps to the North (shore)

Santa 01

Who wants to be on Santa’s “nice” list? We sure do! That’s why, when Santa came flying into town to do some work recently, and he asked to try out a Compass Card, we could hardly say no.

We gave him a card, told him the basics, answered his questions, and had him tap, tap, tap away as he travelled on buses, on SkyTrains, on the WCE, to the end of the SeaBus, over at the North Shore.

Here’s what he said about the card.

Buzzer: So, Santa, what do you think of the Compass Card?

Santa: Ho, ho, ho! Well, I think it’s just jolly fabulous! It’s really easy to use and, since I’m only in town for a few days in December and a couple of weeks of vacation in the summer,  I like that I can load it up with Stored Value and use it when I want—it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Buzzer:  What about your elves, do you think they’ll use it?

Santa: Well, my elves don’t always come with me, but when they do, they have lots of running around to do, picking up toy-making supplies and tools and whatnot. It’ll probably make more sense to put a DayPass on the card for them.

Buzzer: And Mrs. Claus?

Santa: Well, Mrs. Claus likes to come with me in the summer, but she usually stays for the whole month while I head back to the North Pole. She’ll probably get a Monthly Pass on her card when she comes so she can come and go as much as she likes.

Buzzer: I’ve heard your elves can be somewhat mischievous; do you worry about them losing their cards?

Santa: Ho, ho, ho! That’s true! They’re always pulling pranks and up to something.  They certainly keep things interesting—and it wouldn’t be the first time they lost something.

Buzzer: I hear you. Well, if they register the cards, they’ll get Balance Protection, just in case.

Santa: Excellent!

Buzzer: What are you looking forward to about the Compass Card?

Santa: Well, the elves have been trying to get me using the computer the last few years. Being way up at the North Pole, I’m looking forward to firing up the the ol’ machine and poking around on the website. I hear I’ll be able to load passes and Stored Value on my cards from there?

Buzzer: Yep. That’s right. Do you have any questions for us?

Santa: Just one: do the reindeer need cards too?

Buzzer: Sorry, Santa. There’s no reindeer allowed on transit.

Santa: Oh well. Thanks so much for letting me try it out. Ho, ho, ho!

Got questions? Ask away at


Exciting news! Starting earlier this week, we have a convenient new way for you to get answers to your Compass questions:

We know you’ve got questions about Compass and we wanted to have an easy way for you to get detailed answers. is just the ticket! is part of our comprehensive Compass education and awareness program to help you understand how to use the system. The site has an automatic smart-search function, meaning answers to some questions will be instantaneous; if someone’s already asked your question, you can instantly see our answer. If not, you can submit it and we’ll post the answer as soon as we can.

The site will work similar to a wiki, meaning the amount of knowledge and information on the site will grow. The more questions you ask, the better will get. Over time, together, we’ll create an enriched site that you can access regularly to get answers and find out more about Compass.

We’ll be jazzing it up too–instead of just answering with text all the time, we’ll also use visual aids like videos, pictures and infographics to help explain things better when it makes sense.

Of course, we’ll keep answering questions through all our usual channels like this blog, Twitter, Facebook, emails and over the phone, but just gives us another  tool to keep you informed.

Check it out and let us know what you think!

8 things to know as Compass Beta testing wraps up: Final day of testing!


Three cheers to all our testers!

Three cheers to all our testers!

Today’s the final day of Compass Beta testing! Be sure to get in a few more taps before the test officially ends and help us finish strong. As testing comes to a close, we thought it it was fitting to recap some of the highlights of the Compass system. Here they are:

8 things to know as Compass Beta testing wraps up

1. Your data won’t be compromised. No personal information is ever stored on the card so if you lose it, you can sleep well; no one will be able to make sense of the small amount of non-personal gibberish on those cards. And if you do lose it? That leads us to #2.

2. It gives you peace of mind. If you register your card, you can take advantage of Balance Protection, so if you (or your kids) lose your card, call us to protect your balance and have it transferred to a new card.

3. It’s easy to get. Online, over the phone, at a Compass Vending machine at a station or London Drugs, at the Metrotown FareDealer Office or at the West Coast Express customer service—there are lots of options. You’ll need to pay a $6 refundable deposit, then load it up! (If you get your card from a machine, you’ll need to load at least $10 on it; when you load Concession Cards at a CVM, you’ll need to load at least $5). You can even pick up a preloaded card at one of our retailer FareDealers.

4. You can load your card in your pajamas. Really! Go online or call us to load your card up with Stored Value, a Monthly Pass or a DayPass. Venturing out? You can reload at a Compass Vending Machine at a convenient location.

5. It’s easy to use. Tap in, tap out. That’s it.

6. You can set it and forget it. Register your card and sign up to take advantage of AutoLoad. When your card balance gets too low, or your Monthly Pass expires, Compass will automatically reload your card for you so you don’t have to worry about it.

7. It’s flexible. On your way to a friend’s and then decide to get off earlier than planned? No problem! Compass will automatically calculate the correct fare for you when you tap out, making sure you don’t inadvertently pay too much.

8. Help is never far away. Online, in-person, over the phone—you can reach us and we’ll be happy to help. We know change doesn’t happen overnight and we’re here to help you through the transition and beyond. There’s lots of information, resources and outreach coming your way to make this easy and fun!


Thank you!

With your help, we gathered over half a million taps! All that information and feedback will be used to make adjustments to the Compass system before it goes live.

We hope you’ve enjoyed your Compass experience and encourage you to continue to engage with us and share your thoughts. Be sure to let your family and friends know about your experience too!

Just a reminder that your test card will be deactivated at the end of October – hold onto it as a keepsake that you were one of the first to trial the new system!

As always, please send us your final thoughts and feedback via

Thanks again for your participation and enthusiasm.


Got a Compass topic you’d like to see covered?

We’ll have lots more Compass-related blog posts in the coming months and would love your input. What would you like to see us cover? Send your suggestions to

We might use it for a future post!

Days #19-20 of Compass Beta Testing


A Compass hat worn earlier this year at an info session. Sorry, I don't have any to give away :(

A Compass hat worn earlier this year at an info session. Sorry, I don’t have any to give away :(

Number of taps to-date: 552,135

Number of unique journeys: 167,278

Number of routes used: 227

Per cent of taps on the bus: 55

Per cent of taps on rail: 45

Tomorrow’s the last day, Compass Beta Testers. Keep tapping!

Did you notice a different message on the screen when you tapped in or tapped out in the last few days?

As part of our Beta testing, we pushed about 6,000 AutoLoads of DayPasses to testers with monthly passes. If your card was one of the randomly chosen ones, you would have noticed a “Card Updated” message when you tapped in.

The “Card Updated” message is the Compass system’s way of letting you know that your requested AutoLoad hasbeen delivered to your card from the back office system. According to our database, about 2,700 of you have already had the AutoLoad delivered to your card as you’ve been tapping!

Cool, hey?

This test is important not only to verify that our software works properly, but to check how the system handles the volume that comes along with the AutoLoad process. We anticipate that many regular transit users with registered Compass Cards will take advantage of AutoLoad to ensure that they either always have a monthly pass available or that their Stored Value never runs out.

Feedback on this process? Be sure to let us know on the Compass Beta test website.

On another note…

We’ve got some really exciting Compass news to share. London Drugs and TransLink have teamed up and we’ll be installing Compass Vending Machines in 18 London Drugs locations!

This means that for your convenience, in addition to being able to get and load your Compass Cards online, over the phone, at stations, and in person at the Compass Customer Service Centre, West Coast Express Customer Service and the Metrotown FareDealer office, you’ll be able to use the machines at participating London Drugs locations.

Existing retailers who currently sell TransLink fare media will have the opportunity to sell preloaded Compass Cards, however they will not have Compass Vending Machines nor will they be able to reload the cards.

Machines will be installed in stores beginning in early 2014 and will provide another easy way to get your hands on a card, even if you’re not near a station or don’t want to go online or call in.

The participating London Drugs locations are:

100 – 555 6 ST New Westminster
7280 Market Crossing Burnaby
2585 Hastings ST E Vancouver
1650 Davie ST Vancouver
5639 Victoria DR Vancouver
875 Park Royal N West Vancouver
2032 Lonsdale AVE North Vancouver
2230 Broadway ST W (the Vine) Vancouver
2091 42 AVE W Vancouver
3200 – 11666 Steveston HWY Richmond
Trenant Park Mall – 5237 48 AVE Ladner
7303 120 ST Delta
2340 Guildford Town Centre Surrey
821-17685 64 AVE Surrey
1B – 20202  66 AVE Langley
100 – 15355 24 AVE Surrey
1030 – 2929 Barnett HWY-Coq Cent Mall Coquitlam
Valley Fair Mall-101-22709 Lougheed HWY Maple Ridge

You can read the full news release here.


Day #18 of Compass Beta testing

Compass_Beta_Test_Blog_Banner_Sep_2013Whoa! We’ve reached over half a million taps! Way to go, Beta testers.

There are only a few days left to go, so please keep on tapping!

A faregate test

A faregate test

What’s going to happen in the next few days?

The last day of the Beta Test is Tuesday, October 1. If you have a Monthly Pass on your test card, you’ve probably noticed that it says it expires on September 30. In this case, any Stored Value you have remaining on your card will be used on October 1 instead. Let us know if you notice anything different when you tap in or tap out over the next few days and what you think. Be sure to keep logging your feedback on the Compass Beta test website.

However, for some of you, we’ve programmed your card to AutoLoad another pass so we can observe new passes being applied. You’ll have to tap on October 1 to find out what’s on your card!

Near the end of October, everyone’s test card will be deactivated as we “reset” the system in preparation for the start of transition. Hold onto your card as a keepsake that you were one of the first to use Vancouver’s new transit system.

Days #16-17 of Compass Beta testing


Here are some interesting stats for you, as of Wednesday Sept 25 afternoon:

Total number of Compass Cards in use: 8.721

Total number of taps: 472,456

Number of unique journeys to-date: 142,702

Number of buses used: 1,489

Number of routes used: 226


We have something fun for you today! As I’ve mentioned, in addition to the general Beta testing, we have been doing additional small group tests of our Compass Vending Machines, fare gates and automated phone system.

These tests are an important part of Beta testing, and we had a lot of fun watching volunteers use the system and telling us what they think.

We have put together a couple of short videos that capture some of our experiences.

This one was taken at Waterfront Station and shows volunteers getting a sneak peek at the Compass Vending Machines:

And we know a lot of you are wondering what the response time of the fare gates is like. Here’s a video that shows them in action:


What do you think?

Day #15 of Compass Beta testing

Compass_Beta_Test_Blog_Banner_Sep_2013Number of taps to-date: over 430,000

A few testers from our testing last week.

A few testers from our testing last week.

Average taps per card per day: 3

Any guesses which bus routes have been getting the most taps during Beta testing? Yep, the 99 B-Line and the 25 UBC routes have testers tap, tap, tapping away!

All this tapping has led to many students asking me if they’ll still be able to load at the back doors on the 99 B-Line bus. The answer? You betcha—but don’t forget to tap.

The validators on the buses enable you to either tap in or out, so multi-door loading will still be allowed on the same buses that allow it today. And, to make it easier, we have multiple validators on the buses—in some cases up to five on a single bus!

By tapping in and out every time you enter and exit the system, you’ll not only ensure you’re paying the right amount, you’ll let us know how many people use the system and when. That’s valuable information we can use down the road where possible. Our planning team can use this data to help inform future service decisions to make the system better for you, our valuable customers. So don’t forget to tap in and tap out!

Compass Fact: No personal information is encoded onto your card. The electronic chip on your Compass Card will only carry a unique card number and the fare product or value stored on the card.


Days #12-14 of Compass Beta testing



Since I’ve been helping with small group Beta testing at stations lately, I have been getting lots of questions from both testers and curious people walking by. I figure if people are asking me the questions, some of you are probably wondering the same things.

In no particular order, here are some of the top three most frequently asked questions:


Transit Police Officer tapping in with a Compass ticket.

1. What happens if I forget to tap in (or out)?

The Compass system is smart, but not so smart that it can figure out where you started or ended your trip without having you tap.

That means, if you forget to tap at one end of your trip, Compass has no choice but to assume you travelled three zones and charge you accordingly. And if you actually only travelled one or two zones, that’s no fun. We don’t want that to happen.

We do have good news though: we will have lots of reminders and friendly staff around to remind you to tap in and out as you use transit. And, if the beta testers are any indication, you will just keep getting better and better at remembering to tap out the more you use the system.


2. People keep leaning on the readers on the buses, how am I supposed to tap?

The thing is, right now, about 10,000 people have Compass Beta test cards. When you consider we serve 1.2 million rides a day, that’s a pretty small percentage of our customers. And realistically, those validators do make handy posts for leaning on, so we get it.

However, fast-forward a few months to when we have hundreds of thousands of Compass Card users on the system, and it will be a different story. People will learn pretty quickly to stay out of the way of the readers, because they will be using them too.

It’ll take time, but we think people will get the hang of it. And, just in case, we have multiple validators on each bus to make it easier.


handheld unit

Transit Security Officer with a hand-held unit to inspect fare.

3. How will you know if someone didn’t tap in?

Just like now, Transit Police and Transit Security will still be doing fare checks to make sure people are travelling the system with valid fare. To ensure you have valid fare, you’ll need to tap in when you enter the system.

Of course, you can’t tell just by looking at a Compass Card if it’s valid or not. To do that, fare enforcement officers will carry handheld units, portable readers that scan your card and verify if it’s valid or not. It will also let officers know if additional ID is needed (such as for students using U-Pass BC).

And just like now, if anyone is caught on the system without valid fare, they’ll be subject to a $173 fine. So bottom line: don’t forget to tap in and tap out!

Beta testers: please remember you need to carry your own valid fare; the Compass Beta test card is for testing purposes only.


Day #11 of Compass Beta testing


Yesterday, I got to hang out with some of the fabulous Compass project engineers at Waterfront Station. As part of the Beta test, we invited a few testers to come try out the Compass Vending Machines and give us their feedback. We gave each tester a series of tasks to do on the machines, including buying new Compass Cards and Tickets, loading Cards with Stored Value and Monthly passes and viewing their transactions online. Most seemed to find it pretty intuitive, but many also gave us suggestions for changes to the fonts or layout of the screens that might make them more user-friendly.

compass post

Compass beta testing continues!

Of course, once we unwrapped the Compass Vending Machines, we had lots of curious people stopping and asking questions, giving us a great opportunity to explain how Compass will work and what it will mean for them.

One of the people walking by was a deaf man who seemed really interested in what we were doing. With my very basic sign language skills, I was able to invite him to try the machines out and see for himself. I gave him the same script we were reading to the other testers and asked him to work his way through it.

I was a bit concerned that I wouldn’t be able to adequately communicate with him to answer any questions he might have, but it turns out I didn’t need to worry. He made his way through the tasks on the script with little difficulty and said he was impressed and found it easy to navigate. Success!

Did you know? Compass Vending Machines will have accessibility screens with audible prompts for people with visual disabilities.

Day #10 of Compass Beta testing


Some testing of the Compass vending machines done on Monday

Some testing of the Compass vending machines done on Monday

Cards in use: 9,380
Total taps to-date: 309,000+
Total unique journeys to-date: 93,000

One of the concerns we’ve heard from some Beta testers is that the tapping response time on some of the buses is not as fast as expected. That’s great feedback, and we wanted to let you know we’re investigating it.

To investigate thoroughly, our system supplier, Cubic, is working with the support of our project team to observe, measure and report on response time. Some of you have provided really specific feedback, including bus number and times—fabulous! This kind of detail really helps us narrow down things down a bit. For instance, is it only on some buses? Some routes? Some times? When you tap a certain way?

By gathering as much information from the field as we can, we’re better able to refine the system and try to resolve some of the things you’ve told us about. And that’s exactly why we’re having a Beta test: to get that valuable feedback. The Beta test is a great opportunity for us to better understand what you’re experiencing as you use the system at the stage it’s at now.

After all, it’s one thing to test the system in the lab, it’s another thing to test it in the actual environment with real customers.

Tester tip: When you’re tapping in, you don’t need to wait for the screen to clear after the person in front of you taps before you tap your own.

Did you know? TransLink held a naming contest in 2010 and received over 56,000 entries! We narrowed those down to three names: Tpass, Compass and Starfish, and then asked the public to vote for the name they preferred. Compass came out on top, chosen by over 40% of the voters.

Day #9 of Compass Beta Testing


Instead of using my phone case to carry my card, I found this one!

Instead of using my phone case to carry my card, I found this one!

We’re at the half-way point of Beta testing and have registered over 250,000 taps across 60,000 unique journeys! That’s fantastic!

With all that tapping going on, we’re hearing reports that some Beta testers have run out of Stored Value.

In the Compass world, Stored Value is a way of loading cash onto your card. You can then use this value to get up to a 14% discount off the cash fare when you use transit. It’s especially useful if you’re an occasional transit user. It’s also handy because it can automatically act as AddFare if you have a monthly pass, but sometimes travel outside your usual number of zones.

Some testers who use transit several times a day have told us they’re surprised at how quickly they went through their Stored Value. These testers were randomly chosen to have Stored Value on their cards for testing purposes. However, if they were actually purchasing fare products for themselves, they would likely load their cards with DayPasses or Monthly passes instead. And, they might also choose to use AutoLoad to make sure they never run out of value or end up without a monthly pass on their card.

Keep your eyes peeled as you use transit this week. A few of us will be doing small group testing at Compass Vending Machines in select stations. If you see us, please be sure to stop by and say hi!

Did you know? At locations where multi-door bus loading is currently allowed, you can continue to get on at all the doors with your Compass Card. For your convenience, the Validators at the back doors can be used to tap in or tap out.



Days #5-8 of Compass Beta Testing


Some statistics so far:

  • Number of Compass Cards in use: 8,144
  • Total number of taps (as of September 16): 234,343
  • Number of routes used: 220
  • Number of buses used: 1,465
Compass vending machine

Pamela testing a new Compass Vending Machine!

Yesterday, I was back at Templeton Station to do some small group tests of the Compass system. The testers who volunteered to meet us there were able to try out the Compass Vending Machines and the fare gates.

We got valuable feedback from them and are looking forward to more upcoming similar small tests (watch your email to see if you’ve been randomly selected to receive an invite).

A few of us also spent some time looping through the fare gates to test how they would work with lots of people going through quickly. As designed, the gates simply stayed open during taps—you don’t need to wait for the gate to close behind the person in front of you, you simply tap in and walk through.

Wondering what would happen if you tap in and then pass your card back to the person behind you so she can go through too? We tested that, and sure enough, we got a message saying that the card was already tapped.

And while it’s possible someone could simply follow you in without tapping, just like now, that person would be considered to be on the system without valid fare and subject to a fine.

Did you know?  The Compass Card will replace over 150 types of fare passes currently in use!

Beta tester feedback: We’ve had thousands of comments sent to us through the Beta Tester feedback website! While we can’t respond to all of them, we are reading through them and are already investigating some of the things you’ve been telling us about.

One of the things some of you have told us: you’re not big fans of the screen colours. In some light, the screens can be hard to read. This is great feedback and our team is already looking into other options.

Day #4 of Compass Beta testing


Image by Zack Lee

Image by Zack Lee

Yesterday was a milestone day for us:  we passed 150,000 taps since the start of Beta testing! Way to go! Our stats are also showing that more testers are remembering to tap out at the end of the trip—about 80% of you.

What I’ve been up to

Yesterday, I went on a bit of a field trip to help with some more dry runs in preparation for next week’s invite-only tests.

I got to try out the automated phone system to hear what customers will experience when they call in. While you’ll be able to speak to a customer service representative to help ask questions, you can also use the system to do things like hear your last few transactions, get your balance, register your card, and set up AutoLoad.

Since I’m hearing impaired, I was curious to find out if I would be able to understand the voice on the automated part of the system or if it would be a challenge. I was relieved to find out that, even on speakerphone, the voice was clear, crisp, and spoke at a good speed for me to be able to understand.

Interested in trying the system out yourself? Emails will be sent to a small group of random testers to see who’s interested in joining us, so be sure to watch your mailbox.

Tester tip: West Coast Express customers: when arriving at Waterfront Station in the morning, you only have to tap out at the fare gate when exiting. On your way home in the evening, you’ll have to make one extra tap at the Waterfront Station Validators. This extra tap tells the system you’re boarding WCE. Just remember; two taps in the a.m., and three in the p.m..

Compass fact: The Compass Card will replace over 150 types of fare media currently in use today!

Day #3 of Compass Beta testing


Robert's, Buzzer editor, Compass concession 3 Zone Monthly Pass & stored value of $100 stored value Card

Robert’s, Buzzer editor, Compass Beta concession 3 Zone Monthly Pass & stored value of $100 Card

It’s Compass Card Beta Testing time! Check out what else we’ve written on the Compass Card and faregates.

We now have about 7,300 Compass Beta test cards in use and 114,000 taps to date! I travelled the system a fair amount yesterday and probably tapped about 16 times along the way myself!


One of the stops I made yesterday was in Richmond for a special assignment with some of the Compass engineers. They’re prepping for small group testing next week and they used me as a guinea pig for their dry runs. I got to try out the Compass Vending machines to purchase cards and tickets, add Stored Value, view my transactions and check my balance. The engineers intentionally gave me practically no instructions to see how I’d do, and I’m happy to say I breezed right through it. The screens are really intuitive, available in several languages and have accessible options. I think you’re going to like them.


There are a limited number of spots for each of these tests next week, so we’ll only be able to invite a few people Beta Testers. But be sure to watch your email to see if you’ve been selected to help us out. And if you’re a tester and haven’t yet received any emails from us, please check your junk mail just in case.


Tester tip: Keep your Compass Card handy, so you’re ready to tap in and tap out as you enter and exit, without having to fumble around and dig deep into your backpack looking for it.


Did you know? If you register your Compass Card, you’ll be able to take advantage of Balance Protection. That means if you lose your card, we’ve got you covered.


Be sure to follow along with #compassbetatest and, if you’re a tester, record your feedback at

Day #1 of Compass Beta testing


My Compass Beta card and how I make sure I don't forget it at home!

I’ve changed my mind about using my phone to hold my Compass Card for two reasons. #1 It doesn’t seem to scan all the time when in my case, and #2 It’s not the best idea to flash a valuable smartphone around in public ;). I’ve gone to simply swiping my card and so far it’s working! My Compass Beta card and how I make sure I don’t forget it at home!

As we mentioned on Friday, Compass Card Beta testing started yesterday. Our Compass Card expert, and blog contributor Pamela Findling, will provide a daily update on how the testing process is going over the next three weeks. Are you a tester? I am, and above is how I make sure I tap in and out on my way to work! – Robert – Buzzer Editor

Wow! Day one of Compass Beta testing is done and we’re thrilled with the energy on the system. As of yesterday afternoon, we had 5,300 cards in use out of 10,000 and 32,800 taps across the system, including on 758 buses.  About 70% of you are remembering to tap out, which is a great start.

We’ve also been getting lots of feedback from testers, including that the beeps are too loud (or too quiet), some of the validators on the buses are slow to respond and that you’re finding a few things that we need to look at, but overall, you’re excited to be a part of this huge milestone in the Compass project.

This feedback is all critical and an important part of Beta testing; please be sure to log your feedback on the beta test website so we have a record of it when we start refining the system. Unfortunately, we can’t respond to all of your suggestions immediately, but we are reading them and do appreciate you taking the time to update us.

A couple of cool stats for you:

  • Number of devices used: 4,283
  • Number of routes used: 207
  • Taps on buses for September 9: 17,747
  • Taps on rail for September 9: 15,062

Sample tester comments

  • First tap in and tap out using Compass on the bus, very easy.
  • Gonna ride the bus because #compassbetatest.
  • Whoohoo! All set and ready to test #compassbetatest! Excited to have been selected.

Be sure to follow along on Twitter at #compassbetatest.