Community groups are praising TransLink for addressing concerns related to the introduction of the Compass card system. However, representatives note that the new fare regime will still be more expensive than existing discount options.
“I think it’s great that they’ve responded to service providers and agencies,” said the Carnegie Community Centre Association’s Tamara Herman. “From what I understand, the tickets are going to be a little bit more expensive than they are now…but it is good what they’re doing.”
On August 21, the Straight reported that social-service providers we worried that the rollout of TransLink’s new Compass card system would hinder their ability to offer transit assistance to people living in poverty.
In an interview for that story, Herman explained that some organizations working in the Downtown Eastside give people FareSaver tickets for transport to important meetings like medical and counselling appointments, job interviews, and court appearances.
The Compass system is replacing FareSavers booklets—which offer 10 tickets at a reduced fare rate—and other discount options for paying transit fares. If travellers want a similarly discounted fare under the Compass system, they will have to purchase a Compass card for $6, and load it with enough money to pay for a ride.
Representatives for the Carnegie Community Centre Association and several other service providers told the Straight that those changes would make it very difficult for them to continue providing low-income earners with transit assistance.
After those concerns were voiced in the media, TransLink’s vice president of enterprise initiatives told the Straight that they had “thought about this”, and decided to introduce a Compass option that would let social-service providers continue to issue single-use tickets.
“We know that there are community groups out there that have been buying books of FareSavers and providing them to their clients for single rides,” said Michael Madill. “For those organizations, we are going to make available bulk-sale Compass tickets for those who need them.”
Madill explained that single-use Compass tickets will sold to organizations in bulk pages of 50. The price will be roughly 14 percent below the cost of cash fares. These tickets will have a 90-day expiration on them, but groups will be able to return expired tickets and exchange them for new ones.
Chantelle Krish, a spokesperson for YWCA Vancouver, told the Straight that the move by TransLink has addressed her concerns.
“I think that there’s been a good response to those concerns, to come up with something that will allow us to continue doing what we’re doing," she said. “We’ve connected with TransLink and we’ve had some great discussions.”
Herman decribed the new option as “great news”, but expressed alarm for the higher initial cost the new system will carry.
The price of a pack of 10 adult single-zone FareSaver tickets is $21. A bundle of 50 Compass-discounted single-zone fares will cost an estimated $118.25.
“Buying these 50 tickets at once will be a big expense for us,” Herman said. “As a smaller group, and with transit so expensive to begin with, we’ll have to be careful about when we use it.”
Herman also argued that TransLink continues to ignore the greater needs of low-income transit users.
“It doesn’t address the underlying problem, which is that people on welfare don’t have any subsidized transition options,” she explained. “More and more people are being pushed out of the Downtown Eastside due to displacement, but social services are still here. So it’s great, but it’s not a solution to the underlying issues.”