Telegraphed Gazette: Column. 14 August 2013

Hello folks, and welcome to another edition of the column. Today we will be looking at the issue of the Translink in the lower mainland of British Columbia, and their push to make the compass card more widely used. The issue that arises from this push is that their machines cannot validate paper bus transfers which are received after a cash payment has been given upon boarding any Translink bus in the lower mainland.

The spokesperson from Translink stated that it was too expensive for the company to upgrade all their fare boxes; thus the result will be that if a passenger is to board a bus, and then a Skytrain, they will need to pay twice. These transfers cannot be traded in, nor will there be any form of discounts available to the transfer holder. The spokesperson however noted that there will be a transitional period in which both payment options – cash, and compass card – will be accepted as they proceed to teach the general public on how to use the compass card in their daily commute.

Now this is all fine and dandy if the passenger is from the lower mainland, but what about guests and tourists from abroad? Normally when I travel to a country, the only form of payment I have available to me is usually cash or credit, since I am not a local and may not have known about these little bits and pieces of information. Now the compass card – or at least the concept of it – is not new to the developed world as cities such as Hong Kong have been using it for the past decade now, way before Translink even considered this new form of payment.

What I find interesting about Translink’s strategy is that they wish to go all in with the compass card, and state that their machines will be too expensive to make compatible with the tickets. Last time I took the Skytrain, there was this small blue box which validated tickets for the Skytrain, as well as bus services. Perhaps a combination of the two, with one or two lanes set aside for transfer users so that they can still pass through the gate with their transfers? All those upgrades, and still no one thought about this potential issue creeping up?

However, it is said in the article that the transitional period will also be a time when retailers will begin to stock compass cards – monthly, and pre-loadable. Thus I suppose the issue can be solved by positioning retail stalls in airports, and bus terminals, where visitors can gain access to these items before departing the transfer point and entering the transit system. Then the next step will be figuring out how to effectively host a public awareness campaign in order to promote the compass card, and finally phase out paper-based transfers. While there is a degree of frustration related to this topic, let us hope that translink – during the transitional period, or before – can reach a solution where the loss of cash payment transfers will not affect the local populace who commute to work daily using their services. The link to the full article is located in the URL below.


Thank you folks for reading, and I will see you next time.


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