When TransLink rolls out Compass Cards on the West Coast Express next month

Compass Cards bring hidden costs to some Abbotsford–Mission transit riders

When TransLink rolls out Compass Cards on the West Coast Express next month, some passengers will be forced to pay extra to ride the rail

Some West Coast Express (WCE) riders will be out as much as $1,000 annually when TransLink installs  Compass Card machines at the Mission station sometime in December.

Currently, people who connect to the WCE train from an Abbotsford or Mission bus receive a credit on their WCE trip. With the credit, a one-way ticket from Mission to Waterfront in Vancouver costs $10, as opposed to $12.25. When the rider returns on the WCE and transfers onto a BC Transit bus in Mission or Abbotsford, the passenger rides for free by swiping their WCE ticket on the bus.

For daily commuters, that’s $90 saved monthly.

However, TransLink is discontinuing this credit system, alongside others, in an effort to streamline programs.

Neither TransLink nor BC Transit know how many people commute from a Fraser Valley bus onto the WCE train. Anecdotally, it is a small minority, according to BC Transit.

TransLink would not reveal how much money it is saving by discontinuing the credit program.

To date, WCE riders have transferred to a BC Transit bus in Abbotsford or Mission for free by showing their valid WCE ticket as proof of payment.

“It’s like a swipe card. When you swipe on the bus, we count how many people ride the bus and revenue goes back to the local municipality, the local government, to fund transit,” said BC Transit spokesperson Meribeth Burton.

But with a Compass Card, there is no way to tell when it expires.

There are no card readers on buses, so drivers can’t validate the cards.

“I think the risk for fraud is substantial,” replied Burton when asked whether passengers could simply show their Compass Card to a BC Transit bus driver and board for free.

Installing readers on BC Transit buses would be too expensive and not an option, said Burton.

“Nothing about our system has changed. Everything about their system is about to change… But there will be  some fall-out [on the BC Transit system] from the [TransLink] changes, and this is an example of technology that now can no longer communicate with each other,” she said. “That’s not to say that there aren’t solutions where we could meet somewhere in the middle. We continue to have those discussions.”

Compass Cards become mandatory for WCE passengers in December.

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