Flawless rollout of Sydney’s new Opal transit card highlights delays on Translink’s Compass project

Sydney, Australia, overcame dire predictions of commuter chaos Aug. 31 with the flawless launch of its new Opal card system, a cousin of Tranlink’s long-awaited Compass card, which is being implemented by the same company. The complete launch came only nine months after the start of basic service.

It’s a stark contrast to the long-delayed rollout of the $197 million Compass card, now more than a year overdue. Translink officials have promised an update on the Compass program this month, but there doesn’t seem to be any chance that Translink will deliver on its 2013 vow to launch the program in 2014.

If Translink doesn’t announce a firm launch date, many commuters will want to know why not — not to mention the Translink Mayor’s Council, which now has two representatives on the Translink board.

Both Sydney and Translink are using systems developed by Cubic Transportation Systems.

Just a month after the Opal rollout, the main criticism is coming from seniors and students who are angry that the system has not delivered promised concession cares. Translink’s Compass fare system has been developed, but questions remain here about how it will work for students and special groups like the homeless.