Today Vancouver BC’s TransLink announced the name of its new smartcard, Compass. Currently using magstripe tickets and passes (for bus) and proof-of-payment (SkyTrain and B-Line buses), by 2013 TransLink will transition to universal adoption of the Compass card. TransLink has chosen Cubic/IBM to provide the smartcard technology, the same company used by many agencies worldwide, including the Bay Area’s Clipper and London’s Oyster. (Cubic recently bought out ERG, the supplier for ORCA.)
This $170 million project will reduce fare evasion on SkyTrain and the B-Lines (which, unlike the privately-operated Canada Line, are rarely fare-checked) and provide heaps of ridership data to TransLink for use in planning service improvements and future fare policy. TransLink will continue to use its impressive network of small retail outlets and pharmacies to provide fare products.
Relative to our experience with ORCA, TransLink has many strategic advantages that should provide them a smoother transition than we have experienced. Without a ride-free area to overcome and with no shared bus/rail operations, faregates can be installed at all rail stations. Further, its integrated governance structure should allow it to avoid the interagency administrative nightmare that ORCA has produced in our region. TransLink owns the primary bus/seabus operator (Coast Mountain) and the SkyTrain operator (BC Rapid Transit Company), directly operates the West Coast Express commuter rail, and owns but contracts out operations of the Canada Line (ProTrans). Revenue sharing issues might arise with the West Vancouver routes – independently owned and operated since 1912 – but given that routes and fares have long been integrated, any issues should be minimal.
Given intense crowding and peoples’ continued expectation for 3-door boarding, I hope that Compass readers will be installed at all doors on the 97 and 99 B-Lines.
As an unrelated postscript, while researching this post I came across a sentence that made me wince: “TransLink’s diversified funding portfolio gives TransLink greater certainty regarding annual funding levels and enables us to plan for the long term.” While no North American agency has had an easy few years, take this chart as food for thought.