What’s really going on with Compass card? Bills keep mounting, but no date for start up

Translink has now confirmed what many feared — the $194 million Compass card system — once scheduled for roll out last September, now has no definitive date for launch.

This is bad news for riders, who could use another $194 million of service anytime but are watching a big expenditure produce nothing.

Kelly Sinoski’s Vancouver Sun report this morning on the problems with Compass raises more questions than it answers, mostly because we have only Translink’s side of the story. There is no comment, of course, from Cubic, the firm with an international track record that won the bidding to implement Compass.

Some critics say Cubic may the source of the problem, given glitches it faces with other systems at much larger cities like London and Chicago.

But warning bells should sound when Sinoski quotes Mike Madill, Translink’s vice-president of enterprise initiatives, the guy responsible for Compass.

Madill says, “Whatever issues they have in other jurisdictions we don’t think they will affect our project. Our system is particular to us and it’s really all about making sure it’s right for us.”

Is Translink imposing special policy decisions that are driving costs and delaying launch? If so, what are they?

Is it Translink’s “tap off” requirement, needed strictly to gather information, which beta-test users like myself and almost everyone else I know believes will cause incredible congestion at stations and on buses?

And why is Translink tapping gas tax funds to cover cost pressures? Those funds were meant for new service infrastructure, not overruns on operational projects. Does the contract not require Cubic to deliver the program for a fixed price?

Or is the delay perhaps related to concern that glitches on roll-out could complicate a transit funding referendum that must occur before next June? If so, I doubt that such delays were contemplated in Cubic’s contract.

Is it just me, or can I hear lawyers warming up their litigation machines in offices downtown?