Hong Kong has the Octopus
London has the Oyster
Seattle has the Orca
Vancouver is getting the… drum roll… Compass.
While the public transit authorities in the world’s other great seaside cities chose to name their reloadable, digital-wallet transit passes after sea creatures, Vancouver chose a name already used in San Diego. See it here. The emphasis will be comPASS not COMPass, even though TransLink’s goal is to stop fare evasion: asses who take complimentary trips.
TransLink’s rejected, shortlisted names were Starfish and TPass.
Starfish would have been ideal. It has five points, like your hand. There are five modes of transportation in Metro Vancouver: bus, SkyTrain, SeaBus, West Coast Express and air. The pass is applicable to the first four and would bring commuters to Vancouver International Airport and the Coal Harbour seaplane terminal. The five points of a starfish would’ve also been a subtle way to remember the five-ring circus of 2010.
Contactless smart cards for commuters are not new and go hand-in-hand with turnstiles and fare gates, which Vancouver still doesn’t have after more than 25 years.
Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway began the Octopus Card in 1997. Transport for London started the EDS and Cubic Corporation-provided Oyster Card in 2003. Seattle’s 2009-introduced Orca card is actually ORCA (One Regional Card for All) and was developed by ERG, the Australian company behind Octopus.
In 2006, TransLink was mulling the idea of a smart card and leaning towards the MasterCard contactless card system tested in New York City. The plan was to get it in use in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics. The International Olympic Committee requires free transit for pass-holders and limited free transit for ticket-holders.
It took until Jan. 27, 2011 to finally announce a contract with San Diego-based, New York Stock Exchange-listed Cubic. The company gets $84 million to design, build and install the smart card and fare gate system by 2013. Cubic gets $13 million a year for a decade plus a five-year option and a $6 million, one-time “transition cost.”
To get the contract, Cubic hired lobbyist Ken Dobell, the chairman of VANOC’s board finance committee, chairman of Hill and Knowlton Vancouver, former city manager and deputy minister to Premier Gordon Campbell.
What do you think of the Compass? Email me or comment below.
News and views on Vancouver 2010 (and beyond) from Bob Mackin.