Fare revenue, ridership up as Compass passes million-user milestone

TransLink to close remaining open accessible SkyTrain faregates July 25

TransLink now has one million active Compass card users and Metro Vancouver’s transit system continues to notch up significant revenue gains since most faregates earlier this year.

Fare revenue was up eight per cent in April, May and June compared to the same months of 2015.

Officials attribute much of the gain in part to reduced fare evasion after the Compass rollout and most faregates closed.

But ridership is also up, by an estimated two per cent in the first half of 2016 from a year earlier.

TransLink collected $511 million in transit revenue last year, so an eight per cent gain could translate into an extra $40 million a year – potentially easing the challenge of raising more money for an ambitious transit expansion Metro mayors want to roll out with federal and provincial government grants.

Some faregates have been left open for people with disabilities to ensure they’re not barred from access at times when attendants aren’t present at stations.

But TransLink says those remaining faregates will close Monday July 25 as it shifts to an interim solution for those wheelchair-bound passengers.

RELATED: Special SkyTrain gates promised for disabled

An improved Station Assistance Service is to allow paraplegic passengers to call for help if they can’t tap a Compass card to open gates.

TransLink has also been working with some of the affected passengers to craft assistive devices that allow them to tap out of the gates themselves.

The transportation authority has committed to installing a permanent solution by the end of next year – proximity-sensor entrances at stations that will open as a user approaches who doesn’t have the use of their hands to tap a Compass reader.

That new system is to cost up to $5 million.

The gain in revenue is despite the fact the use of cash payment on buses has dropped 23 per cent as riders switch to Compass passes or stored value on their cards. Compass users pay slightly less per trip – equivalent to the old discount for FareSaver tickets – so the trend away from cash is a financial headwind for TransLink.

The $190–million Compass card/faregates system had been buffeted by early glitches and problems, as well as doubts over whether its costs could be recouped through reduced fare evasion.

Officials had minimized expectations of revenue gains, stressing that the system’s prime benefit is to generate better data on passenger movements for designing more efficient routes and schedules.

TransLink says 94 per cent of trips are now taken with a Compass card or ticket.

More than half of Compass card trips are on registered cards, meaning the owner can recover the pass or money loaded on it if it’s lost or stolen.

About 113,000 users have signed up for the autoload feature, which either adds the new month’s pass or tops up stored value automatically when it runs low.

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