Last updated: June 1, 2012 2:31 pm
British Columbia U-Passes to go electronic in summer of 2013
VANCOUVER (CUP) — Next year, expect the U-Pass to change again.
Beginning in the 2013 summer term, the current version of the U-Pass will be replaced with a Compass electronic fare card that will require students to tap the card next to a sensor whenever they wish to enter a SkyTrain or SeaBus.
The new U-Pass will be made out of plastic and students will no longer need to pick a new one up every month. Instead, the same card will be valid as long its owner is enrolled at UBC and eligible for the pass program.
“These cards, similar to ones used in Hong Kong, London and other major cities, are designed to be more convenient for customers than the current variety of passes,” said Kyle Warwick, VP External for UBC's Alma Mater Society (AMS).
According to TransLink’s information officer Drew Snider, this initiative stems from TransLink’s overall decision to replace all paper tickets with the electronic Compass Card. Snider said that these changes, first proposed in late 2010, will allow TransLink to simplify the current transit system, which now makes use of over 150 different transit passes, and keep better track of the way the transit network is functioning.
“Our planners are really looking forward to Compass, as the data generated by customer movements will help them manage the transit network more effectively, with a better grasp on where resources are needed most,” he said. “This way, they can make the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars.”
According to Snider, the switch is also expected to fight fare evasion. Like the thin plastic U-Passes that had been issued at UBC until last September, the new U-Pass will once again have the passenger’s name printed on the front of the card.
Also, the new sensors that are expected to be installed in TransLink’s buses, SkyTrains and SeaBuses will help ensure that only those who have paid their fare are able to get aboard.
Still, some UBC students are concerned that requiring people to tap their U-Pass next to a sensor will only increase wait times for express buses, such as the 99 B-Line, which runs along Vancouver's busiest east-west corridor and is already notorious for its long lines.
“It might actually complicate things even further,” said third-year Arts student Alvin Chang. “The lineups are going to be even longer and it’s going to take more time to get into a bus.”
And while both TransLink officials and AMS representatives are confident that the new U-Pass and Compass Card will be an improvement over the current transit system, many details still need to be worked out. Among them is the price of the new U-Pass, which has yet to be determined.
“The AMS, along with other student societies and post-secondary institutions, is currently in the process of working with TransLink and the provincial government to ensure the new U-Pass remains a great program for students,” said Warwick. “This includes working hard to ensure that it remains at an affordable price that students will strongly support during a renewal referendum.”
This renewal referendum, which is required every time UBC’s AMS renews its U-Pass contract, is set to have students vote during the fall 2012 term.