I had a slightly different commute schedule last Wednesday, in that I had a morning meeting in one of New Westminster’s western suburbs, and had one of those multi-leg trips to work. Instead of riding my bike or joining my carpool partners, I took the SkyTrain on all three legs.
My transit commuting is irregular enough that FareSavers have been the most logical and economical way to pay. Since the FareSavers have become about as rare as white rhinos, I have been buying tickets at the kiosk, pretty much because that is the pattern I have fallen into. On the first leg of my Wednesday journey, I reflexively bought a 2-zone ticket and although I noticed a few weeks ago that the new tickets are essentially disposable Compass cards, it took me one of those overstuffed train moments of self-realization to ask: why the hell haven’t I bought a Compass Card?
So on the second leg of my journey, after my meeting in that distant western suburb (I like what they’ve done with the place, not sure why anyone would want to live there), I popped for the $6 deposit and a nice float of $60. The number seemed to me prudent: large enough that it will keep me for a little while as I try out these new-fangled ideas, but not so large that I will hate the world when I inevitably lose it. Tap In at Waterfront; all good.
My first problem was at Brighouse. Like many of my cohort, I was riding with earphones, listening to a Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe podcast, and as I left the station and performed my first Tap Out, I was uncertain if I heard a beep. Actually, I heard multiple beeps, as people were tapping in and out all around me, but did MY kiosk beep? I think so, and with people behind me rushing out of the station to the busses, I didn’t want to break momentum to make sure. Even if I did, would Tapping Out twice somehow mess the system up, and count as re-entry? When did I become so old that new technology confuses me? Was it before or after I completely lost touch with popular music? Is Beyonce still a thing?
Fortunately, I can go on-line to see the status of my Compass Card. To do this, you need to set up an account, and aside from the frustratingly archaic, patriarchal and gender-normative mandatory “Mr/Mrs/Ms” data field (really, TransLink? It’s 2015), the interface was easy enough for gramps like me to navigate. I was able to confirm that, sure enough, the Tap Out didn’t take. My card balance showed $55.80, meaning I was charged the FareSaver Rate of $4.20 for a three-zone ride, instead of the $3.15 FareSaver Rate for a 2-zone ride. To fix my Tap Out mistake, I needed to call the 1-800 phone number, which launched me on yet another metaphysical debate about whether that hassle was worth $1.05 of my time.
I go through life like this, folks. It is harrowing.
Being interested in taking the ride to see where it goes, I did nothing. After work I once again hopped on transit, this time Tapping In at Brighouse Station at 5:10pm (90% sure it beeped for me), Tapping Out at waterfront at about 5:45 (70% sure, as the exit from Canada Line at Waterfront is a serious traffic pinch point that I am still certain will be the failure of the entire FalconGate Fiasco), Tapping In again across the lobby at Waterfront (100% sure, as the FalconGate was operating), and Tapping Out again at Columbia Station at about 6:15 (lets put this one at 95%). I made it to my 6:30 meeting at City Hall just in time. Thanks TransLink!
Curious to see how all of this activity showed up on my card, I logged on (after resetting my password, because who remembers those things?) and this is what I get:
Clearly, Compass is confused, or I really need to work on my tapping skills. My 5:10 Tap In was apparently registered, as it appears to have made the system aware I didn’t tap out, but none of the subsequent taps was registered. Fred Astaire I am not. As far as tracking my movements, we have a 2 for 6 on Taps. I suppose the two Waterfront taps cancel each other out, I’m surprised it didn’t catch me leaving Columbia Station. The good news is:
The confusion of my movements has resulted in TransLink charging me for one three-zone trip, and not for the two 2-zone trips I made, so I guess I am $2.10 up on the deal.
I hasten to note this problem is very likely to go away once the FalconGates are fully operational, as it will be pretty much impossible for you to miss a tap-out. The current bugs in the system should probably be expected, and at least there is a method for you to receive a refund in the case you get overcharged.
As an interesting aside, I have two travel options on transit getting from my work to New West. I can take the Canada Line to Waterfront, then SkyTrain to New West, or I can hop on the 410 bus to 22nd Street station then one stop on SkyTrain. Both take almost exactly the same time, one hour station-to-station. I have always chosen the SkyTrain because it is more comfortable than the 410 bus and (traditionally) more reliable as it doesn’t get stuck in the east-west-connector single-occupant-vehicle Stockholm-syndrome traffic-radio-reality-program plebiscite-free fustercluck that our regional transportation system is becoming.
However, now that we are in the Compass world there is another difference:
The ride on the bus will cost me $2.10 with my loaded Compass Card, the Train ride $3.15. If I was a daily commuter, that would be a difference of more than $500 a year. This makes me wonder if people will actually engage in this type of “toll avoidance”, trading convenience and comfort for a few dollars a day.