TransLink’s smart card is proving to be a dumb idea for seniors and people with disabilities.
They’re the ones who on January 1 started using the Compass card, which replaced the annual bus passes offered under the B.C. Bus Pass Program for low-income seniors and those receiving disability assistance.
Because of mobility issues, the elderly and disabled generally disembark through the front door on the right side of the bus, which a driver can move nearer the curb and lower.
But now, according to Robert Woodward, they’re being ordered by drivers to “tap off” their card and exit at the rear door, which is farther away and higher relative to the curb. “It’s something that wasn’t a problem until the Compass card came in,” Woodward told the Straight in a phone interview.
When the 60-year-old Compass-card holder noticed this on January 1, he started asking drivers why the elderly and disabled were being told to alight at the back.
According to the Surrey resident, he was informed by several drivers that they had been instructed by management to have riders exit at the rear in order to speed up loading at the front door.
Because Compass-card users have to tap on and off, the loading and emptying of buses takes longer than before. People still using the passes that will be phased out later this year generally board and flash their card without breaking their stride.
Woodward related that he called TransLink’s customer-service department about difficulties being experienced by seniors and people with disabilities and was dismayed by the response. (He said he has also written to TransLink about his concerns.)
“They said what you should do is you should tell the drivers that it’s not easy for the old people, and I said, ‘Wait a minute, wait a minute. It should not be [up to] the public to train and teach the drivers,’ ” Woodward recalled. “It should be up to TransLink because that’s who the drivers work for. And I said it makes no sense to me when the company is telling the drivers to do one thing and have the public tell them to do something different.”
TransLink’s communications department told the Straight that a spokesperson on Compass issues would not be available by deadline.
The regional transportation body’s website that answers questions about the smart card states that riders can exit at the front door of a bus if that’s the “most convenient” option.
After delays, TransLink is rolling out the Compass card in stages in 2014. It expects 80,000 customers to be using the card by the end of January.