Compass card causes trouble for elderly and people with disabilities, senior says

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      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.




      Jan 8, 2014 at 9:57am

      I still can't believe that anybody thought that this system was a good idea. I wonder how many more ways Translink can find to increase their operating deficit and reduce service quality?

      Also Concerned

      Jan 8, 2014 at 10:13am

      The length of time it takes for the Compass machine to register a "Sucess" notification is also quite lengthy, thus adding to slow down of boarding and embarking. Many elderly passengers keep their pass around their neck, which also looks to be a new difficulty for them, as the Compass pad is quite low to the ground upon entrance.

      What should also be noted is that most passengers with a Government Compass pass aren't even bothering to tap out, because well, why bother? The card is loaded with unlimited fare, and it covers all zones. Translink ought to have properly researched how this would affect the real people using it, and implement a system accordingly. Instead it's haphazard and uninformed, as always.


      Jan 8, 2014 at 11:03am

      Meanwhile TransLink has axed, or plans shortly to axe, the following fare discounts (as noted on their website):

      Employer Pass Program - Effective January 2014. This program provided an extra 15% discount to members and required a 12 month commitment. Customers can continue to purchase monthly passes.
      FareSaver tickets - transitioning out spring/summer 2014.* A discount on regular fares will be provided with the new Stored Value option for Compass Cards.
      Free travel for family members of monthly and 28-day pass holders on Sundays and holidays - Effective January 1, 2014.
      West Coast Express 7-day pass - Effective spring/summer 2014.*
      West Coast Express 28-day pass - Effective spring/summer 2014.*
      Acceptance of Central Fraser Valley "Valley Max" transfers and passes on West Coast Express - Effective spring/summer 2014.


      Jan 8, 2014 at 11:50am

      Seems like a cruel twist of fate given the honest poor, who aren't likely to load a compass card and simply 'pass as you go', are trapped into paying the HIGHEST fares.
      Not much incentive to improving your lot when the government is constantly looking for ways to remind you how poor you are....


      Jan 8, 2014 at 12:00pm

      Mismanagement and skewed spending priorities are crippling Translink. The Compass program has been a boondoggle snide it was announced with far too much spending on consultants and too little thinking about users. I have been to many cities that use smart cards for their transit systems and have yet to hear from Translink why the solutions in those locations weren't suitable for the Lower Mainland. Why is it that old style stripe tickets are still usable in places like London even after their upgrade to Oyster cards yet Translink decided to double charge casual users? I can't think of a single place I have been where a unified transit system double charges passengers, and many places different companies honor one another's tickets to complete a journey.

      Tapping in and out shouldn't cause a backlog for skytrain, at least if they had put some thought into the gate system. I wonder if they are going to simply open the gates at peak times and operate essentially the same old system even after all this spending. Translink has spent millions on "studies" on a wide range of subject over the last decade, somewhere around 40 for the Patullo Bridge alone, and that money is wasted. Administration and bureaucracy consume an ever greater percentage of the Translink budget as they go to government with their hand out begging for more money. The inefficient spending on Compass has left us with a cheap and ill-thought out system that cost us at least three times what it should.

      We are hostages of the unelected bureaucrats who run health, education, BC Ferries, Translink, ICBC and every other government agency with which we deal. They make the spending decisions knowing the government or union workers will take the blame: that is why the number of "managers" increases in every bureaucracy even when frontline services or jobs are eliminated. They hide spending on administration under a range of ostensible service costs but reality is that even in times of government cuts and hiring freezes new managers are added to the org chart. Programs like Compass invariably leave behind a new layer of bureaucrats like flotsam.


      Jan 8, 2014 at 12:20pm

      The use of the word "dumb" in the first sentence was a really poor choice, considering this article is at least partially advocating for people with disabilities.

      That said, yeah, Compass is a huge problem and it's only going to get worse. The program was a terrible idea and it's been developed and implemented really, really badly. What a waste of time and money.


      Jan 8, 2014 at 12:59pm

      I agree this is going to be a problem, but the article is a little sensational. Those annual passes, don't carry a fare, they are unlimited use (like a monthly pass).

      Tapping out is required to calculate your fare properly, and is not required for this kind of usage.

      It should be fixed before compus is in the hands of fare users, but until then this isn't affecting anyone.


      Jan 8, 2014 at 1:33pm

      Dump Compass.
      Fire TransLink Board and senior management.
      Keep system as it is.
      Problem solved.


      Jan 8, 2014 at 3:21pm

      Hmm, let me see. Executive bonuses or proper study of the Compass Card System? LOL


      Jan 8, 2014 at 3:44pm

      My Take On This Is Get Rid Of Translink, And Go Back When BC HYDRO Ran The Buses, Phone Service ETC. They Were Never Under Budget ,Over Budget And Not Telling The Public That They were Looking For Ways To Nickle And Dime You. And Never Forced Disabled Passengers Off At The Rear Doors, Plus People Would Give Up Their Seats To Seniors And The Disabled.

      There Should Be A Big Over Haul Of The Transit System. Get Rid Of The Money Grabbers. Plus They Lie In Re Guards That They Need It For Road Work And Upgrades To Their Bus System.