After lengthy delays, Compass cards are about to roll out to all Metro Vancouver transit users who want them.

Faregates begin to close at SkyTrain stations

TransLink's Compass card rollout accelerates, one-zone bus fares arrive

SkyTrain users can expect to see at least one faregate closed at Expo and Millennium Line stations as the full rollout of the TransLink Compass card payment system gathers steam.

All passengers can go through the open gates but Compass users are encouraged to tap to use closed gates – which do work – to get used to the procedure and test the system.

TransLink officials aim to gradually close more gates in the weeks ahead. As fewer faregates are kept open, passengers will be gently spurred to switch to Compass so they can use the closed gates.

Acting CEO Cathy McLay said at least one gate will be kept open at each station until a decision is made to fully close the system and end use of traditional tickets and monthly passes.

The hope is that when TransLink finally closes the last gates, so many passengers will already be tapping that it will be more of a baby step than a massive shift.

RELATED:New transit world coming with Compass card

McLay envisions early next year to complete the switch, but said that will depend on how quickly regular users make the switch to Compass.

“How fast that takes off is how quickly we’re going to migrate off the traditional products,” she said.

Even after the last gates close, Compass vending machines will still sell single-use paper tickets that open the gates for infrequent users who don’t want to get a card.

About 225,000 Compass cards have been issued so far, with 110,000 in regular use – most of those are held by West Coast Express passengers and students with U-Passes who were converted over the summer.

But the number of Compass users is expected to rapidly climb towards an eventual 800,000 as the cards become widely available.

McLay said the main query TransLink is fielding is how to get the cards.

Compass vending machines installed to replace traditional ticket machines have been operational in many stations for several weeks.

They initially sold just one-use paper Compass tickets but are supposed to offer actual reloadable plastic Compass cards this month.

Compass cards are also being sold at a TransLink office at Stadium-Chinatown station.

But they will be widely available at the 350 retail outlets that are fare dealers by November.

One zone bus fares

TransLink has also switched to one-zone payment for all bus and HandyDart routes.

That means Compass card users on buses no longer have to tap out to avoid being charged for more than one zone.

TransLink had held back on the rollout in part because it feared the tap-out requirement on buses would cause unacceptable delays, or that many passengers would be overcharged when their exit taps weren’t correctly read by the problem-plagued Compass readers.

The change effectively means riders on bus routes that cross zone boundaries will pay less than in the past. For example, someone who normally pays $5.50 for a three-zone trip from South Surrey to downtown Vancouver by way of the 351 bus to Bridgeport Station in Richmond and then the Canada Line will now only pay for two zones for the same trip. Most bus routes stay within one zone anyway, so there’s no change for the bulk of riders.

FareSavers still around

TransLink has not yet stopped selling either traditional monthly passes or booklets of prepaid FareSaver tickets, although it may have seemed like it.

The British firm that produces the FareSavers went into receivership this summer before being bought out by another company and a supply shortage has made them hard to find.

McLay said the prepaid tickets are being airlifted in as quickly as possible and said the supply problems are not a strategy to force passengers onto Compass cards faster.

Nor, she said, will anyone lose the value of FareSavers they’ve bought with the shift to Compass.

They’ll continue to be accepted until the last gates on the system close.

And McLay said passengers with unused FareSavers they don’t want – either later on or now – can have them converted to stored value on Compass cards.

After the switch is complete, bus passengers will still be able to pay with cash, but their transfers will no longer be valid for SkyTrain – they’ll have to pay extra to use the rapid transit lines if they don’t adopt Compass.

Compass cards loaded with stored value will have fares automatically deducted as trips are made, or passengers can buy and load day or month passes on them.

Users have the option to register Compass cards to protect against loss or theft – the balance can then be frozen and transferred to a new card.

For more information see compasscard.ca.

Explore the history of the Compass card issue by navigating left or right in our interactive timeline above.Mobile device users can also view the timeline here.

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