TransLink is moving to a one-zone charge on buses as it rolls out the Compass cards to the rest of the transit system.

Compass card rollout means big fare break for some bus riders

TransLink will move to one-zone only fares for all buses, end tap out requirement, to solve smart card problems

TransLink is switching to a one-zone fare at all times on buses as the solution that will allow it to roll out its long-delayed Compass card to the entire transit system.

It means a price drop of at least $1.25 for regular riders who now pay for two or three zones on certain bus routes that cross zone boundaries.

Passengers on the 351 bus from White Rock/South Surrey to Bridgeport Station in Richmond, for example, will pay $2.75 for an adult weekday fare, effective Oct. 5, instead of the $4 two-zone fare right now. If they continue on to Vancouver via Canada Line they’ll pay a total of $4 instead of $5.50 previously for three zones.

The same applies to riders of the 555 from Langley over the Port Mann Bridge to the SkyTrain in Burnaby.

And passengers will pay less on several other routes spanning at least two zones, including buses that cross North Shore bridges, that connect Surrey and Delta to Richmond or New Westminster, or that link the Tri Cities or Maple Ridge to SkyTrain.

TransLink will also abandon the planned Compass card tap-out requirement on buses.

That was a major headache for launching the smart card payment system because tests found many passengers forgot to tap out on buses and were then charged the maximum three zones when they only travelled one.

Bus service also stood to be crippled by delays on busy routes if every exiting passenger had to tap out, particularly if provider Cubic failed to improve slow card detection rates of the Compass readers on buses.

The change also addresses the fact bus riders on multi-zone routes would have been able to cheat the system and pay only one zone by tapping their card on the exit reader early without leaving.

The end of the zone system applies only to buses. SkyTrain, SeaBus and West Coast Express passengers won’t get a break and they’ll still have to tap out.

Multi-zone bus routes are relatively scarce – 80 per cent of riders move only within one zone and won’t see any savings.

But there are concerns the elimination of two- or three-zone bus fares may result in worse bus congestion on certain routes.

Buses that cross bridges like the Ironworkers Memorial or Port Mann will suddenly be cheaper to take than boarding a SeaBus or SkyTrain.

Cathy McLay, TransLink’s chief financial officer and the incoming acting CEO, said TransLink is not projecting any net drop in revenue from giving up the extra zone charges because more bus riders will be attracted by the fare break.

“We think it will all balance out – the increased ridership will cover off any loss,” she said.

But McLay was unable to say whether or how TransLink will put on more buses on routes that could see higher volumes.

“Unfortunately, with the No plebiscite, there is no increase in transit services,” she said.

The changed bus fare system is billed as temporary pending a fare policy review and a possible eventual move to distance-based transit pricing.

There are no plans to increase one-zone bus fares, McLay said.

TransLink’s Cathy McLay answering questions Thursday.    Jeff Nagel / Black Press

TransLink says it will begin activating Compass vending machines later this month at SkyTrain stations and SeaBus terminals.

They’ll initially sell single-use Compass tickets, but actual Compass cards will be available via the machines by late October, and by November in retail outlets, walk-in centres and by mail for those ordering online or by phone.

As for when fare gates will actually close and secure the system, that could be months longer as TransLink waits for riders to use up pre-paid FareSaver tickets, which will no longer be sold next year. The gates were originally to be operational by fall of 2013.

The base Compass fares will be the same as FareSaver pricing, with options for passengers to buy other options like a day or month pass.

One downside to abandoning the tap out on buses is TransLink will lose some of the benefit it was counting on from the $194-million smart card and fare gates system – accurate locations and times of the start and end of each trip so planners can more precisely match route service levels with demand.

But Compass program vice-president Lloyd Bauer suggested much data will still be useful because analytic systems can infer where passengers exit in many cases.

Compass cards are already in use by special pass holders, students with U-Passes and West Coast Express riders.

Bus passengers have long paid only one zone fares at off peak times after 7 p.m. weekdays and on weekends and holidays.

Some bus riders may save $554 a year from Surrey, $948 from Coquitlam

How much will riders save if they regularly take a three-zone trip that will soon cost only two zones?

A regular three-zone monthly pass user now pays $170 a month but will be able to instead buy a two-zone month pass for $124 – a $46 saving that adds up top $552 per year.

That’s the scenario for many commuters to and from Vancouver from South Surrey by express bus and then the Canada Line, or from Langley via the Port Mann 555 express bus and then SkyTrain.

A South Surrey or Langley rider whose destination is currently a two-zone trip away – such as Richmond or Burnaby – will soon be able to buy just a $91 one-zone month pass, saving $33 or $396 a year compared to the cost of a $124 two-zone pass.

Similar savings can be had by frequent riders of various bus routes between Surrey/North Delta and either New Westminster or Richmond, or from Maple Ridge to SkyTrain in New Westminster.

But the biggest winners from the elimination of zone pricing on buses are likely regular riders of the 160 bus from Port Coquitlam Station to Vancouver or the 190 from Coquitlam Station to Vancouver.

Those are two of only three routes in the region that traverse three zones, so regular riders on those routes who now pay $170 for a three-zone monthly pass will see that cost cut to $91. That $79 a month saving adds up to $948 a year.

Explore the history of the Compass card issue by navigating left or right in our interactive timeline above.Mobile device users can also view the timeline here.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This Crescent Beach home, located at 12505 22 Ave., was subject of a police search warrant June 18. (Google image)
Civil Forfeiture Office alleges Crescent Beach home used to launder money

Court documents request the home, and $85,000 to be turned over to the government

Surrey firefighters battle a house fire near the 70A Avenue and 126A Street intersection early Sunday morning. According to a witness, it appears that the occupants were able to get out without injury. (Shane MacKichan photos)
PHOTOS: Fire causes extensive damage to Surrey home

Occupants able to escape without injury: witness

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

An animated Gordie Hogg introduces his 'Community Connections' videos. (YouTube screenshot)
Community Connections: Gordie Hogg speaks with Glenn Rose

Former mayor, MP began posting conversations on YouTube in June

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Mounties looking for teen boy ‘unlawfully at large’ from Riverview psychiatric hospital

Nolan Godron left the hospital, located at 2721 Lougheed Highway in Coquitlam, without consent on Saturday

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Most Read