Compass voted in as name of transit smart card

New payment system, turnstiles coming to TransLink in 2013

The design of TransLink's new smart card.

TransLink hopes you’ll use your Compass to get around Metro Vancouver in the future.

That’s the name of its planned smart card that will replace all existing passes, tickets and eventually cash for fare payment.

Compass beat out Starfish and TPass – other names that had been shortlisted from more than 56,000 suggestions.

The winner of the naming contest – Burnaby’s Oleksiy Gayda was drawn at random from among dozens who suggested Compass –  receives an iPad and one year of free transit once the new smart card debuts in 2013.

TransLink put the three final names to an online vote in January, with Compass getting more than 40 per cent support.

Names like Umbrella, Otter and George (after Captain George Vancouver) had been previously considered but rejected.

The winning name is a departure from the use of sea critter monickers at other major transit systems – such as London’s Oyster card, Hong Kong’s Octopus card and Seattle’s Orca card.

The payment system is to be in operation by 2013, along with turnstiles at SkyTrain and SeaBus stations, at an estimated total cost of $171 million.

Federal and provincial contributions cover $70 million.

Passengers will tag on and tag off the system as they board by bringing their cards close to proximity readers.

They’ll prepay by loading money on their card, which can then act like a day pass,  weekly pass or a variety of other fare options.

It’s expected the system will eventually eliminate the current three-zone fare structure, allowing for more accurate distance-based fares.

Cubic Transportation Systems and IBM Canada won the contract to build and run the system.

Reaction on social networks was mostly positive.

Daniel Chow called Compass a “nice choice” on Twitter but Byron Fok said he found it a bit plain.

“I think they went with the safest name and logo they could find,” tweeted graphic designer Nick Routley. “Honestly, I’d do the same if I were TransLink.”

SFU marketing professor Lindsay Meredith disagreed, predicting Starfish would have resonated better with younger transit users.

“Starfish is a name that would travel well on networks, on social media,” Meredith said in an interview. “Compass? I’ve got my doubts.”


Value seen in stopping fare cheats, tweaking bus service

Critics of the new smart card and turnstiles system have argued it’s too expensive and that ending open access to SkyTrain stations won’t eliminate fare evasion.

But TransLink has released a summary of its business case for the new system, showing it will more than pay for itself over 15 years.

The report projects TransLink will gain $89 million over that period in reduced fare evasion.

The smart card is also expected to produce a bounty of accurate data on how passengers actually use transit in the region.

That improved information will help TransLink run the bus system more efficiently – worth an estimated $77 million over 15 years.

New ridership is expected to bring in an extra $35 million in revenue, in part because sizable numbers of people now refuse to use SkyTrain because they worry about crime and their security on the ungated system.

Another $26 million is attributed to “improved resource utilization.”

It adds up to projected benefits of $227 million over a decade and a half – somewhat more than the anticipated $205 million in combined capital and operating costs.

Bus service efficiencies were conservatively estimated, the report says, noting those gains could be more than twice as high.

The value of reduced fare evasion is estimated at $7.1 million per year (in 2011 dollars). That’s more than the $6 million a year that TransLink in the past has estimated it has lost to SkyTrain fare cheats. About 5.6 per cent of riders don’t pay, according to audits.

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