The Compass Card comedy and chaos continues.
Documents that I obtained indicate the non-binding Metro Vancouver plebiscite on the 0.5% TransLink expansion tax will end May 29 without any certainty whatsoever about when the general public will finally get to use the much-ballyhooed smart cards and fare gates.
The system was supposed to cost $100 million when it was announced in 2009 and supposed to be in service in 2013.
It is 2015. The testing and baby-steps rollout continues, with no end in sight. The budget is, we are told, $194 million.
Compass has been a major plank in the No TransLink Tax campaign in the mail-in vote, led by the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation’s Jordan Bateman. If it can’t get Compass right, how can it be trusted to do $7.7 billion of public-funded projects on-time and on-budget?
Late last year, feeling heat from the provincial government, Compass contractor Cubic Transportation Systems hired a lobbyist — Lecia Stewart, the former Millennium Line project boss and Bombardier vice-president who has been associated with SNC-Lavalin. Yes, the troubled SNC-Lavalin, which operates the Canada Line, is building the Evergreen Line and wants the Broadway subway job.
I also revealed heavily censored TransLink-released documents showing that change orders, scope creep and errors have driven-up costs and led to delays.
Allen, who formerly headed the Canada Line, took over from TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis on Feb. 11 for a six-month term. Instead of being fired, Jarvis was shuffled to a new job as an advisor to the board. Allen pleaded for patience in an April 2 story in the Vancouver Sun about Compass.
There is evidence that TransLink and Cubic were trying to jump-start Compass during the plebiscite, for a partial public rollout. A source tipped me off that Cubic invited local politicians to a VIP technology demonstration and wine and cheese reception on April 8 at Seasons in the Park. The event was called-off on April 2 with the flimsy excuse of “scheduling conflicts and the holidays.” My source tells me it was not rescheduled.
Now this, a leaked May 13 memo by Allen to the Mayors’ Council. Halfway through his six-month term, and two weeks before the plebiscite ends, Allen says 7,500 West Coast Express users will get their cards starting June 8, to mark the beginning of Compass revenue operations. Allen calls this a “significant milestone.”
By September, Allen’s memo says 130,000 students from 10 post-secondary schools, 85,000 B.C. Bus Pass and TransLink employees and 7,500 West Coast Express passengers — a total of 222,500 — will be using Compass.
There is nothing in Allen’s memo whatsoever that mentions full, public service of Compass. Or that other bothersome detail: cost.
The ultimate goal is 800,000 Compass users, but there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Could this saga stretch into 2016? That is a risk, according to the 2015 SkyTrain and West Coast Express business plan that I revealed in the Vancouver Courier.