TransLink rolling out wearable Compass Card bracelets
Next week, getting on transit in Vancouver could be all in the wrist.
TransLink is rolling out a new type of wearable Compass Card starting next week – and let CTV News take it for a ride.
The waterproof, silicone wristband taps to open the fare gates just like a regular Compass Card. But there’s no doing what transit rider Suzanne Fife calls her "tap dance" – the juggle to find her wallet, pull out the Compass Card, and hope she doesn’t drop anything along the way.
"You put it on like a bracelet in the morning – that’s great," she said when we showed it to her at the Main Street-Science World Station.
But if she wants to get it – she might have to act fast. TransLink is releasing just 1,000 wristbands of each type -- blue for adult fare, orange for concession fare, and black for TransLink staff – starting Monday.
The wristbands don’t fit into regular vending machines, so passengers would have to go to the Stadium-Chinatown station. They’ll be available for the same $6 deposit as a Compass Card.
Given there are some 500,000 riders a day, 1,000 wristbands is not a lot, said TransLink spokesperson Jill Drews.
"If they go like hotcakes in the next week or so, we’ll order some more," she said.
The agency is catching up to other cities’ transit systems, such as Hong Kong’s Octopus Card, which offers passes in key chains, and London’s bPay band card from Barclaycard, which can replace the city’s Oyster Card.
And it gives options to some people who have used chemicals to dissolve the cards, remove their chips and antennae, and put them into anything they want.
One self-proclaimed "biohacker" in Australia, whose real, legal name is Meow-Ludo Disco Gamma Meow-Meow, actually installed the RFID chip in his wrist.
That resulted in a ticket for him for not having a valid ticket – even though he had $14.07 on the chip. Meow-Meow pleaded guilty in a Sydney court to travelling without a valid ticket, but didn’t get a conviction.
"I’m not a doctor, but that seems risky to me, but it would also make your fare not valid. So to avoid getting a ticket for not having a fare, you should probably leave your Compass Card or wristband as it is," Drews said.
The wristband appeared to be noticed slightly slower than the regular cards – an issue that could be related to the device’s range.
And it’s important to wear the band on your right wrist, not your left, because the readers are on the right side of the gates – trying with your left hand will open another gate.
Some riders had other suggestions for the next item you should be able to put a Compass Card chip inside.
"Probably a phone case, that would be good," said one man.
Legislation has been changed that used to restrict TransLink to cards, Drews said, so that could be an option.
"We’re always looking for new ideas," she said.