Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Fare gates fully close in April; what to do about cash-only customers

One of the reasons why TransLink delayed the launch of the Compass Card was due to lower than expected successful read rates, and the time it took to read Compass Cards on the machines installed on buses. Some people were not properly “tapping out” of buses which would cause people to be over-charged. To get things moving, TransLink switched to a one zone bus network last fall.

When people started using the Compass Card, I noticed a lot of read problems on the bus. People would wildly wave their Compass Cards at the reader, or only hold their cards for a microsecond at the reader. As people have been getting used to using the Compass Card, I've noticed that people now hold the cards steady at the reader until they get a successful green check.

I have to wonder if the original reason for delaying the Compass Card, due to lower than expected successful read rates, was more of a user training issue than a technical issue.

By most accounts, the Compass Card launch has been successful. On April 4th, TransLink will start the process of closing all the fare gates at SkyTrain stations and SeaBus terminals. According to TransLink, around 12% of the population in Metro Vancouver uses a Compass Card on average during a week.

One of the concerns brought up recently was how would people will limited mobility be able to use fare gates. In respond, TransLink will be introducing “a station assistance service to help these customers at fare gates, including elevators.” This may be an improvement for people as before, there was no assistance available for people that needed to use an elevator.

I'm still concerned about people that pay with cash on the bus. Starting in April if you pay with cash on the bus, the transfer you get will not open fare gates.

Retrofitting all the buses to dispense Compass Tickets would likely have a low return on investment. Also, paper fare media creates a lot of litter.

TransLink has already made it easier to get a Compass Card by selling pre-loaded cards through its extensive FareDealer network.

Map of TransLink's FareDealer network in the South of Fraser. Select image to enlarge.

Many people are used to going to these same FareDealers to top-up their pre-paid phone accounts. To further enhance the ease-of-use while also reducing the need to pay with cash on a bus, TransLink should allow FareDealers to top-up Compass Cards. It is technically possible, and would ensure that there are no second-class transit customers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would suggest Translink to install bus tickets validator/vending machine to solve the problem of bus tickets not being able to tap on fare gates. A bus ticket would go into a validator or vending machine and a compass ticket would come out. This would save Translink loads of money from installing compass tickets machines on every bus, instead they just have to install one at every station. It is still a lot of money, but it is a much better alternative for those without compass cards.