Bus riders who pay in cash and plan to transfer to SkyTrain later will have to switch to paying with the new Compass card when it arrives or else they'll pay double.

Bus-to-SkyTrain transfers costly without smart card

Cash-paying riders who shun TransLink's Compass card will have to pay double to transfer to SkyTrain

Metro Vancouver bus passengers who now pay with cash and use a paper transfer to later board SkyTrain will find themselves paying double if they don’t adopt the Compass card after the new payment system takes effect in 2014.

TransLink says fare boxes on buses won’t be able to issue paper tickets to cash-paying passengers that are compatible with the SkyTrain faregates. Passengers who try to use them will be forced to pay again at a SkyTrain station.

Spokesman Derek Zabel predicts the vast majority of riders will use the Compass card and have no problem but concedes more public education will be needed.

A compatible system on buses would have cost an extra $25 million.

“It wasn’t a cost-effective solution,” he said.

Bus-to-bus paper transfers will still work, as will SkyTrain-to-bus transfers – it’s only bus-to-SkyTrain transfers where tickets will be incompatible.

An estimated 6,000 people a day use bus-to-SkyTrain paper transfers after paying cash.

That’s a small fraction of the more than 1.2 million daily transit trips, Zabel said, noting most riders already use a pass or some other form of pre-paid fare.

While Compass cards are expected to roll out before the end of the year – after an extensive testing period this fall – both the new and the old system will work simultaneously for months before the faregates are fully activated.

“We’re not going to close the gates until people fully understand how to use the system,” Zabel said.

The cards are being configured to replicate existing payment offerings so users can load money on their card and buy the equivalent of a monthly pass or get a similar discount to the FareSaver prepaid ticket booklets by buying ahead.

Discounts will range up to 14 per cent, according to Zabel.

TransLink expects passengers will flock to adopt the reloadable Compass card because of the convenience it will offer – ending the need to go to a store to buy a monthly pass – as well as other advantages like transfer of the balance if the card is lost or stolen.

Gavin Davies, vice-president of the CAW union local representing Coast Mountain bus drivers, said there’s concern angry passengers who are forced to pay again to board SkyTrain will take out their fury on bus drivers.

“They’re going to immediately retaliate against the next bus driver they see,” he predicted, adding driver assaults could increase.

The move was blasted by transit users on social media and an online petition has been started demanding TransLink abandon the “double transit fee.”

It’s not the only change associated with the Compass card conversion that’s drawing controversy.

TransLink is also axing the Employer Pass Program that offered a 15 per cent discount to employees of participating employers. It was often coupled with employer-offered perks like preferential parking as a way to encourage more transit use while reducing the number of workplace parking stalls required.

“It wasn’t fair,” Zabel said. “Some select people and groups were benefitting while other people weren’t getting that same level of discount.”

TransLink says employer pass users can buy monthly passes now, but in many cases that may cost them more.

TransLink will also phase out FareSaver prepaid tickets in January.

Also being eliminated Jan. 1 is a policy of allowing free travel for family members of monthly pass holders on Sundays and holidays.

 

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