#FareGate latest: CEO Allen no miracle worker with Compass

West Coast Express riders get it in June, but memo offers no hints on system-wide Compass launch

Doug Allen
Doug Allen

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.

Mobile users click here-> Allen Compass Update 0513

2 thoughts on “#FareGate latest: CEO Allen no miracle worker with Compass

  1. Bill Lee

    Meanwhile, former U-Pass students will experience mass delays “tapping-in, tapping-out” (and drivers will give up and let anyone off and on, so no “data” will be collected or valid) next month

    Students’ cards are all-zone, so no penalty of 3 zone payment, when no tap-out or incorrect procedures.
    Line-ups are already huge. SFU runs year around and there are already “sorry-bus-full” pass-ups on the #145 buses for the thousands of students there.
    It will be the same with the B99 to UBC and others.

    SFU makes switch to Compass Card
    Say goodbye to your paper U-Pass starting this June
    May 11, 2015 by Jamal Dumas in News

    The Compass Card is your new way of travel,” Colleen Brennan, TransLink’s VP of Communications, told The Peak. This June, all SFU students will replace their monthly paper U-Passes with Compass Cards, before the general public has adopted the system.
    Brennan explained the reasoning behind a gradual rollout: “It’s a very complicated undertaking to roll out a program like [this] under a very complex system like ours.” Taking into account already existing models from across North America, TransLink has decided that it is best to introduce transit users to the Compass Card in a “staged manner.”

    Here are a few key pieces of information SFU students need to know about the transition:
    1) Starting May 19, all U-Pass kiosks located on any of the three campuses will stop dispensing paper passes and instead dispense compass cards. The kiosks will be in place until September, after the incoming class has a chance to receive their card.
    2) On June 1, the launch goes live and Compass Cards can be used to tap-in and tap-out.
    3) All Compass Cards distributed through the U-Pass kiosks have waived the $6 deposit required for purchasing the card. However, after September, students will have to go to fare dealers such as Safeway and London Drugs where they will have to pay a deposit.
    4) While students no longer need to visit the kiosk monthly, they must log on to the U-Pass TransLink portal to load a monthly U-Pass on to their card.
    5) The process of applying for a U-Pass exemption will be the same as before. However, those applying for an exemption due to receiving a U-Pass from another institution no longer need to provide a copy of their U-Pass. They must instead provide SFU with their card’s serial number.

    The environmental impact of the transition could be significant, explained Danielle Finney, TransLink’s Senior Communications Advisor for the Compass Project. Said Finney, “That would be 130,000 paper passes that are no longer being shipped by truck to the 10 campuses every month. So it’s not only about a reduction in paper and wood products, but also in greenhouse gas emissions.”
    Brennan added that, as opposed to users flashing their passes, the Compass Card’s ability to track card usage could lead to improved transit service. She explained, “One of the beauties of this card and one of the reasons why transit organizations moved to this system is that it does allow us to plan better.
    “So, when we are planning our routes [and] planning our system out, we are able to see what the travel patterns are for people. It allows us to optimize our service with respect to that.”
    Rella Ng, SFU’s Associate Registrar for Information, Records and Registration Services, noted that, “Right now with flash pass, there is no data on what routes students (or anyone) is taking. Data is the tool to help us with functionality.”
    Brennan spoke to the choice of rolling out the Compass Card to students before other groups, noting that students form a quarter of TransLink’s entire customer base. “Students are a really important customer group for us,” said Brennan. “They tend to be more heavy users of transit, they’re more likely to adopt early when it comes to new technology, and they are also are quite happy to give [us] feedback.”
    Finney concluded, “We’ve worked really closely with all of the schools to make sure that students get the information they need to make this as seamless as possible.”

    [Maintenance mode: Our regular Peak site is undergoing repairs friend! Check out our current content at temporary-the-peak.ca until things get back to normal. Thank you for your patience.

  2. D. M. Johnston

    The compass Card/fare gate system was never needed.

    Fare evasion was within industry norms and the it will cost more to operate the compass Card and fare gates than what was lost due to fare evasion.

    Our fare system was very simple, 3 zones full/concession fare regimen/90 minute transfer period. Dead easy

    The the only reason for the Compass Card would be if the government privatized Translink into 4 or more entities.

    The whole issue needs a thorough investigation.


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