Rolling out the new Compass Card fare system is costing TransLink $23 million more than expected, the transportation authority confirmed Thursday.

Officials are blaming inflation and other factors for the overrun, which has pushed the project’s price tag up from $171 million to $194 million.

“More than half of that increase is bringing it to current day dollars,” said TransLink’s Mike Madill. “There’s also system changes, there’s interest during construction, there’s internal labour charges, [and] there’s a tax impact.”

TransLink also revealed for the first time that it will be paying the Cubic Corporation $12 million annually to operate the Compass system.

That’s $2 million more than TransLInk estimates it loses annually on fare evasion, a problem Compass Cards were supposed to fix.

Madill told CTV News the system is still worthwhile, noting that it’s expected to help the transportation authority save money in other ways down the road.

“The biggest savings from this program is actually due to the changes that we’ll make to the system to put buses where we need to put them to match demand,” he said.

Every time a rider uses a Compass Card to tap on or off transit, TransLink will collect more information about usage that it can use to make its entire operation more efficient.

But the bus drivers’ union claims TransLink receives some of that information already, and questions the decision to allocate so much funding to the project.

“Why would you spend this kind of money on a system when you need more buses on the road?” union vice-president Gavin Davies said.

Davies said the system may eventually save money, but only by allowing TransLink to reduce staff, a speculation the agency denies.

With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Jon Woodward