Saturday, July 26, 2014
Last updated: 6 days ago

Switch from U-Pass to Compass card delayed until at least 2014, will include additional fee

Photo Carter Brundage/The Ubyssey

Photo Carter Brundage/The Ubyssey

The transition from the U-Pass to the Compass card could be more difficult than expected.

The new Compass cards will be delayed until at least 2014 and the cards will cost students $6, according to AMS VP External Tanner Bokor.

“There’s no way they could be free cards. It’s just basic economics,” said Bokor. “If they were to be provided at no cost, TransLink would be at a loss on the program, which is not exactly a situation that they would like.”

Bokor said the $6 is refundable if students return their Compass card and have no outstanding charges on it. The monthly fee for the U-Pass has already risen to $35 this semester after last year’s referendum.

Bokor said students will continue to use paper U-Passes until at least the second term this school year. The AMS is about to begin a beta test of the new Compass cards, but no date has been set for when all UBC students will use the new pass.

Students will also see a few other changes with the implementation of the Compass card. The Ubyssey obtained a copy of the new U-Pass contract through a Freedom of Information request. The contract contains new anti-fraud measures, as well as information on the collection of personal data from the new Compass cards.

The contract states that TransLink or individual schools themselves can suspend students from the U-Pass program in the case of “fraudulent or inappropriate use of a U-Pass.”

However, Bokor said the AMS does not want to get involved with punishing students for U-Pass fraud.

“Rest assured, at the moment there are no mechanism in place to punish students if there is U-Pass fraud aside from what fare enforcement would do, which is fine the student for being in violation of the U-Pass agreement,” said Bokor.

The contract does not explicitly state how much students will have to pay to obtain the Compass card itself, only that students will have to “acquire an adult-class Compass card from TransLink’s fare media distribution channels available to the general public.” Students will also have to register the card on a U-Pass BC website every month to get the U-Pass benefit applied to the card.

“What I can say is that there is and was pretty active debate during negotiations on that particular cost from all sides. There were some concerns expressed and there continue to be concerns expressed by all parties about the cost,” said Bokor.

Bokor said the AMS is considering getting fare-dealer status so they could sell Compass cards, but they don’t have the capacity for it at the moment.

“We would have 50,000 students potentially asking us for cards. We have no outlet to distribute that,” said Bokor.

The contract also gives TransLink the ability to collect data from Compass cards about transit use, in accordance with the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Act. Students will have to tap their Compass card both when they board and disembark, and TransLink will collect that data. The contract states that the data collected will be “opaque” — meaning it won’t contain any personal information, just raw data. TransLink plans to use the data to measure how much certain transit routes are used, and adjust services accordingly.

“TransLink never sees any student information at all. All they see is a random kind of slew of numbers and letters that don’t necessarily associate to an individual,” said Bokor.

TransLink will use the information it collects to evaluate the services it offers. Bokor said he thought the data would work in students’ favour, since it would show how much UBC students use transit, as well as show the need for certain bus routes.

“I think after a few months students will get used to it. It will be a very smooth ride there forward,” said Bokor.

The current U-Pass contract is set to expire in April 2016.