Returning to Paper Tickets?

Let's have a serious discussion about whether the Compass system is desirable at all. I gather that it costs $12 million in annual upkeep, and I'm not at all confident that is the whole cost to the system. Obviously, the old system had an annual cost as well, but we don't really know what that cost was. While I don't think we ever were given a total capital cost of implementing Compass, I gather it was around $200m. That is a sunk cost, and shouldn't affect our decisions going forward.

Obviously, the problems with Compass are manifold, but for bus riders, it does speed up loading; and it provides for these many pricing options. It makes it slightly harder to skip out on a fare, but that was never a significant problem, and the main area of fare evasion (DTES) still has a high level of fare evasion, for the same reasons it has long had a high incidence.

The problems with Compass include: slowing people down getting on and off the Skytrain and Canada Line; necessitating the elimination of zone fares for buses, and the incompatibility of bus transfers with the Compass system.

I have a fond remembrance of the long-departed paper ticket for buses that the driver tore off, and which had the length of transfer on the ticket. I doubt that system cost $12m/year.

While I would never have spent ~$200m to put this mediocre system in place, it does have its advantages. What do others here think?

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  • Matthew Cowper

    I haven't looked much into the costs, so I won't address those.

    With the slowing down for Skytrain and Canada line, if I remember correctly, it was the province that mandated that fare gates be installed. Because of this, since fare gates have to be used, going back to paper tickets would provide no benefit and would slow the process even more due to the extra reading time needed for the tickets.

    There are upsides to Compass over paper tickets (easier purchase of monthly passes and reloading stored value, less paper waster, and the ability to change fare systems without having to change all the fare media). It does seem that there are some better systems available compared to Compass, but those would have a high capital cost as well. As Compass works similarly, albeit with a few drawbacks, I can't see the spending of another large sum to switch to something slightly better. Instead I believe Translink will just workaround the limitations of Compass (such as making permanent the flat fare for buses so as to not require tapping out).

    Basically, I don't want to go back to paper fares (I have used the paper system you mention in Kelowna recently) as Compass is vastly superior for ease of use. There are some limitations with Compass that will be worked around, but Compass is here to stay for a while.

  • It would be nice if paper tickets were to return. However, it cannot replace Compass cards (except Compass tickets) and be just a paper ticket. Firstly, it needs to be recyclable (Compass tickets are not: ). Secondly, it should come with barcodes (should use PDF417 barcode (e.g. ); a space should be reserved for a QR code) when ticket not validated; when ticket is validated, PDF417 code should be blacked out and a QR code should be printed alongside with transfer information indicating the ticket has been validated; QR codes should also allow users to read information about their ticket on their smartphone). Thirdly, these should replace the magnetic transfers and Compass tickets (as mentioned earlier). Fourth, SkyTrain and SeaBus paper tickets should be replaced with reusable contactless IC tokens (e.g. Taipei Metro -; Kuala Lumpur rapidKL - ). TVMs inside and outside fare paid zone should serve as gateway between gated fare control area (tokens) and honour system (paper tickets with barcodes).

  • Jeremy Leung Sorry, the link for Compass tickets not recyclable is this one ( ). All other links shared are correct.

  • Jeremy Leung 

    I think we are thinking of two very different systems here. My proposal of going back to paper tickets (at least for trips begun on buses) would be for a completely analog paper ticket. You probably have to go back fifteen years when we last had them, but they were tear-off tickets which indicated how long you could transfer. They definitely could not be validated.

    There were a number of advantages to the system - low cost, a more flexible cash payment system, no need to validate transfers, and so on. I'm not quite sure that I agree Compass is easier to use. I think it's clearly more difficult for people buying cash fares, and about the same for monthly pass holders. I would agree that it's significantly better for people who hold stored value on their cards and used to buy faresaver tickets.

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