Time to “tap out” TransLink’s senior managers

Most folks are surprised when I tell them that TransLink spends 10 cents of every farebox dollar on the process of actually collecting that dollar. Economists refer to this as the “friction cost.” By comparison, the collection of income tax is incredibly efficient, with a friction cost so small that it amounts to a rounding error on the amount collected.

At the end of the day, funding public transit through farebox revenue is a very poor policy choice if for no other reason than the costs involved in collecting this revenue.

This brings to light another big issue with TransLink’s recent introduction of the Compass Card. Over-budget and more than two years behind schedule, it will apparently provide TransLink with better data on ridership. But we already have all the data we need on the really important item to be accounted for — the number and location of bus stops where passengers are bypassed and left behind to wait because buses are already so full.

How much more data do we need?

tapout lg

The tap in/tap out Compass card system is a mobility barrier for many people with disabilities. And HandyDART users aren’t even included in the roll out, so they have to buy two separate passes.

Not only is the Compass Card system late, incredibly expensive, and entirely unnecessary as a data collection tool, I am sad to say that it quickly became apparent on the rollout January 1 that it would make our public transit system inaccessible to many folks such as myself. Let me explain.

The Compass Card must be used in order to gain access to all modes of public transit by “tapping in” (and, on SkyTrain, “tapping out”). But transit riders lacking the physical ability to do so — in my case, for instance, I cannot raise my arms at all — discovered January 1 they could no longer use the SkyTrain or buses.

For me, this is not a major problem because I bring an attendant with me to help steer my chair or assist me in other ways. However, it is for many folks with limited arm function who were quite capable of using public transit on their own until the introduction of the Compass Card.

Activists in the disability community are bewildered. Why was this problem not identified and solved by TransLink at any time during the multi-year planning process before rollout?

To make matters worse, the Compass Card cannot be used at all — even if you do have the arm function to tap in — on HandyDART, TransLink’s service for folks with disabilities who can’t use public transit. TransLink chose not to install Compass Card readers in HandyDART buses. So for someone like myself who uses HandyDART for some rides and public transit for others, we have to purchase a monthly pass for HandyDART as well as a Compass Card for TransLink.

I’m not complaining about paying a bit more because I’m a lucky guy with a full income. But for a lot of people with a disability and low income, this increased cost will take a big bite out of their disposable income.

Most of us are now tapping in and tapping out each time we use public transit. I think it’s high time we “tapped out” the senior management at TransLink.

This entry was posted in accessibility, British Columbia, equality, HandyDART, Metro Vancouver, Skytrain, social justice, Transit, TransLink, transportation, Vancouver and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Time to “tap out” TransLink’s senior managers

  1. Zweisystem says:

    The sad fact is, most North American transit systems do not care about the mobility impaired and view them as a hindrance.

    All major metro operators using turnstiles and fare-gates have one open section, monitored by a attendant, to allow the mobility impaired access to transit. That TransLink did not plan for nor addressing the problem, shows both ignorance and callousness by senior management.

    The Compass Card and fare gate system now used by TransLink was unneeded; fare evasion was well within industry standards; and the the transit system was far more accessible to the mobility impaired.

    What this debacle demonstrates is that TransLink is incompetent and uncaring, but as regional politicians also don’t give a damn about the mobility impaired, nothing is going to change.

    An operational note: In Europe, the low-floor tram, first designed to reduce dwell times at tram stops in the late 1970’s had an unintended consequence; it permitted easy loading for the mobility impaired, without the need for cumbersome ramps and expensive lifts. The low-floor tram has set the standard for offering universals access to public transit with no loss of time, yet TransLink is oblivious to this and so misuses the low-floor buses that they offer little benefit.

  2. Dr. Richard Ingram says:

    Thank you, Tim, for drawing attention to these issues. When I registered my Compass Card online, I discovered just how far Translink’s data collection exercise extends. Every journey that I have taken is recorded: including all dates and times, with boarding and alighting points, for bus, sky train, and Canada Line. I find it disturbing that Translink feels a need to track every journey we take on its public transport system. My recollection is that the first wave of advertising for Compass assured us that information collection would not infringe on privacy. Now that Compass is being rolled out, it is clear that our rights to privacy are being ignored.

    • Travis Aaron says:

      Richard, I don’t see anything unusual about listing all the trips taken and their dates and times. Compass is a payment card after all, so it only makes sense every transaction would be listed. Would you rather they randomly selected trips to omit?

      The usage data in your account is separate from the data they study to improve transit service. The data they use is anonymized and not attached to your identity.

  3. Roger B Jones says:

    Translink was well aware of this problem from the onset of planning for Compass. I even took it upon myself to be part of the testing phase and (along with others), brought this to their attention again and again. Until this week, Translink did not even have the courtesy to respond to my complaints and then their solution was… Nothing!

    I am also choked that Translink has reduced the Handydart shuttle service at Metrotown skytrain station. This is one of the busiest stations on the line, but the elevator is out of service indefinitely due to the construction. The solution has been to run a Handydart shuttle service from Metrotown to Patterson Station. The shuttle doesn’t even run during the night when the skytrain is running, and now Translink in their wisdom have decided to reduce the shuttle service! Please, tap them out!!

  4. Eric Doherty says:

    I think it is time to name the real decision makers, Premier Clark and her cabinet. The Compass Card and fare gate system was imposed by then minister responsible for TransLink Kevin Falcon. The primary responsibility for any Compass Card and fare gate problems lies with Falcon, Clark and the other cabinet ministers, not faceless managers.

    Nothing of much significance seems to be decided by TransLink management or the TransLink board. Even media releases are vetted by political staffers in Victoria. Though I’m sure some issues are occasionally left to some level of TransLink decision maker when the BC Liberals just don’t care one way or the other.

  5. Cail says:

    Hi! New to your blog and also shocked this was not identified as an issue, both the double pay system for HandyDart users and the lack of accommodation for those unable to tap on the fare gates!

    One point of interest, the Provincial Government required Translink to move to a card system. This was not something identified internally as an issue.

  6. heather laing says:

    I have a compass card that was mailed to me to use with my handy pass.

  7. Jim Smith says:

    Curious question, if someone is travelling without an attendant and does not have the use of their arms, how do they use the the elevator buttons?

    All the stations I can think of are not at ground level and require the use of stairs, esculator or elevator to get to the platform level.

  8. Tim Louis says:

    If you didn’t catch the Dec. 10th Georgia Straight story about bringing HandyDART in house, here it is: http://www.straight.com/news/595951/advocates-call-translink-move-handydart-operations-house

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