Students switching to Compass Cards this month

The Compass Card release date has been set, and UBC students will be switching to the transit pass this month.

“All those who are eligible, they will start receiving their Compass Cards as of May 16,” said AMS VP External, Jude Crasta.

UBC will transition to the new system soon as 50,000 students pick up cards, according to TransLink spokesperson Danielle Finney. Students can receive their cards from any U-Pass machine, after which all U-Pass interactions will be online.

“At this point they were comfortable enough that the issues that they have had to deal with, any fixes, any bugs in the program, all fixed and it’s good to go,” Crasta said, when asked how the release date was decided on.

In the past, technical glitches have delayed full implementation of the project. TransLink announced that the Compass system would be operating by the summer of 2013 but issues with the “tap out” method of getting off the bus postponed implementation, according to TransLink.

According to Crasta, this time “TransLink and the rest of the stakeholders are confident that all [transit] systems that have been encountered are taken care of so it’s safe for the public to use.”

Rolling out the cards was a phased project, with several other institutions receiving the cards in an initial wave of distribution. Douglas College, Emily Carr and Kwantlen Polytechnic University have already transitioned to the Compass system. Schools that will be joining UBC in this rollout are SFU, BCIT and Langara College, according to TransLink spokesperson Colleen Brennan.

“As soon as we’re done there, we’re moving onto to Vancouver Community College and Capilano,” said Brennan.

According to Brennan, TransLink received almost no negative feedback from the institutions using the cards other than some inconvenience with the “tap out” model.

“Let’s say you get on to a bus, you tap in with your card and then you travel a certain amount…. It’s actually turning out to be not as convenient, so you might get on the bus, put your card away, forget to tap out,” said Brennan. “We have a zone system, so you travel one zone and you forget to tap out, it’ll charge for three zones because it’s automatically configured to do that.”

According to Brennan, this should not affect students with a U-Pass because they have a flat rate, so are not paying by zone.

The May 16 release will distribute Compass Cards to summer students for free. After the initial release cards will cost $6 and a minimum of $10 "stored value" will also need to be purchased. The initial release ends when the general public can purchase cards from fare distributers like Shoppers, according to Crasta. Crasta also noted that $6 out of the total sixteen dollars is fully refundable upon surrendering the card and the $10 won't be used if a traveler has a U-Pass.

“The U-Pass will be in effect and when you stop using your U-Pass, the $10 will be available,” said Crasta.

In terms of what this means for students, Compass Cards eliminate the need to revisit U-Pass machines. Students with a compass card can go online every month and load their U-Pass onto the card.

However, lost cards can only be replaced at the Stadium-Chinatown station for a cost of $6.

“Since there’s no other vendor right now selling the cards, they will not be able to give it to you and UBC will not be giving more than one zero dollar card. So, the only other place that you can go and get it is from the actual office that they have set up, the customer service office at the Stadium-Chinatown Skytrain station,” said Crasta.