Compass card beta testing: Vancouver learns how to tap
Okay, so the Compass card works. It's really easy to figure out, but the concept of tapping off will probably catch many local riders off guard.
- Those who have traveled on systems like London's Tube or Washington, D.C.'s Metro will be used to the idea of using the card to complete as well as start a journey.
- Only showing the balance info upon tapping off is okay, I guess, but fails to factor in just how many people will forget to tap off. If Melbourne's Myki rollout is any indication, it's gonna be a lot of people.
- I read that TransLink is considering a smartphone tie-in system for determining how much time is left on your ride. That would be pointless. Just implement a more useful display for your riders. The data is there, the screen is there; so just show us what we need to know.
- I love the bright green and red in the positive- and negative feedback instances. Cartoonish without being Comic Sans, easy to read but still pleasant to look at.
- The tones that accompany Compass card actions are fine. Buses are loud, so, if you want the system tones to be audible, they have to be kinda loud as well.
- Compass cards will have to be easy to buy. Aside from SkyTrain stations, they should be available anywhere you currently by FareSaver packets. Partner stores haven't been announced yet, though.
- The regular Compass card should be orange. TransLink's main system color is blue, but Hollywood loves orange and blue. Since we're Hollywood North, it's a no-brainer.
It's not so much that existing functionality is broken in the early days of the Compass beta test; it's just that some useful UI features are inexplicably missing. The less info, the steeper the learning curve. the steeper the learning curve, the slower the public uptake.
Speaking of public uptake, here are some stats from the first day of beta testing, via TransLink's Buzzer Blog:
- Number of devices used: 4,283
- Number of routes used: 207
- Taps on buses for September 9: 17,747
- Taps on rail for September 9: 15,062
Vancouver vs the world
Vancouver's system is closest to London's and Melbourne's, based on my experience. You have a reusable card that you can reload online. Hopefully Compass reloads faster than Myki, which takes an inexplicable and inexcusable 24 hours to register online top-ups. (Melbourne's tram network, the largest in the world, is a thing of beauty. I love it. It's a shame about the fare system.)
Like London's, Melbourne's, and D.C.'s systems (as well as several others), Compass will financially penalize those who opt for paper tickets. This impacts tourists and the homeless most directly.
Vancouver commuters still get stiffed in the changeover, though: Those paper FareSaver cards gave us a 20% discount, whereas Compass only gives us a 14% discount.
The advantage, though, is that you don't have to buy them in packets of 10, nor in a specific zone category.
London's Oyster card and Washington, D.C.'s SmarTrip system are distance-based, with D.C. offering smaller fares for shorter rides. Besides, LOL at "Foggy Bottom".
Ours and Melbourne's are based on a 90-minute journey: You can do multiple short trips on one fare. New York City's MetroCard isn't RFID-based: it's a plastic card whose weekly, monthly, and annual pass versions are disposable. Only the pay-per-trip version is reloadable, and the user gets discounts based on how much money she adds. Actually, you can do some amazing things with discarded MetroCards.
Going forward, ongoing QA and customer service have to be on point. The Bay Area's Clipper card is a fine example of what happens when badly-implemented technology meets shoddy customer service.
I think that the Compass card system is a good thing overall, but there are some kinks to work out; not so much in the technology itself, but in how TransLink thinks that technology will be used.