Compass Cards And The San Diego Trolley

January 23, 2010 by  

Compass Card Validator

Compass Card Revenue Scam Validator

        The new Compass Card that San Diego’s SANDAG/MTS has rolled out is nothing more than a way to generate revenue, via citations for the city, and I’ll explain to you why. Prior to these reusable, reloadable plastic cards, monthly pass purchasers were issued beautiful, colorful, local artist produced paper passes. We could buy them starting on the 20th of the previous month and once purchased merely needed to be kept on your person to make us good to go. For the next 30 days, we merely had to show it to bus drivers when boarding buses and trolley guards while riding the trolley. That was it… Simple & seamless. One monthly purchase meant that we were golden for a month, as long as we kept our pass in our purse, bag, wallet or lanyard.

        These new Compass Cards have taken away simplicity and one time remembrance and substituted an avenue for monthly pass holders to be issued citations on a daily basis. My explanation will start with the photo below.

Compass Card Regulations

6 New Ways For San Diego Trolley Guards To Issue Citations

        What you see above are the new rules for those of us that fork out $72 for a monthly transit pass in San Diego, handed to me by a trolley security guard. Typos aside, let me just type this all out so that we can be clear; If you do not tap your $72 Compass Card when you get off a trolley to board a bus, get off a bus to board a trolley, board a trolley at any station, get off of a trolley and board another trolley, get off The Coaster and board a trolley, get off a trolley and board The Coaster, get off a bus and board The Coaster or board a bus, you will be issued a citation. On the OTHER hand, if you buy a $5 daily paper pass, you can do/board any of the above WITHOUT tapping anything and without being issued a citation. This is wrong on so many levels that it almost makes me want to go out and buy a car.

        There are a couple news stories out already that discuss just how flawed Compass Cards are. Way back in August off 2009, Sign On San Diego reported just how buggy the software that controls/monitors Compass Cards is. On January 10, 2010, San Diego’s 10News reported that visually impaired (blind) trolley riders are having trouble with Compass Cards because the the Compass Card validators are not in uniform locations. Sign On San Diego then reported again on January 17th, 2010 that regardless of the buggy software being fixed, San Diego trolley riders were still questioning the need to tap their prepaid $72 cards at EVERY SINGLE leg of their commute. Click on any of the underlined text above to read the stories.

San Diego Monthly Transit Pass

Public Transportation In San Diego Used To Be Art

        There is just one final thing I would like to talk about regarding San Diego’s new Compass Card system, and that is how they are cloaking an invasion of every Compass Card holder’s privacy by claiming the new Compass Cards will, “…streamline and expedite fare collection.” What users of the Compass Card may not know is that every time you tap your card, your riding activity is logged & stored on a Compass Card server. What that means is that if you register your Compass Card with SANDAG/MTS, not only will your riding activity be logged, but the name, address and credit card info will also be attached to your card. The Compass Card Website states that a benefit of owning a Compass Card is that it is secure against loss or theft, but only if you register your card with your name and other personal information.

        So take your pick people… Pay $72 and risk a citation at every leg of your commute for the following 30 days on the San Diego Trolley, or $5 for a day pass the with absolute guarantee that you will not receive a citation until midnight that night. Compass Cards are a scam and should be discontinued or at least only provided as as OPTION for the old paper monthly pass.


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7 Responses to “Compass Cards And The San Diego Trolley”

  1. ERv Wilson on February 4th, 2010 8:21 am

    I haven't got a citation yet, but I was given a verbal warning on Tuesday 2/1/2010 for failing to tap my compass card when I transferred from the Orange Line to the Green Line at the Grossmont station. I had looked at both ends of the station (why aren't the tap boxes near the ticket machine? There's power there and it's in the middle and easily seen and found?) and didn't see any boxes. It was dark, and I don't see as well as I used to. I got on the train not really expecting a problem. But I was wrong. The officer couldn't tell me what the fine would be, and anyway, he didn't issue a citation. He said that he and all the other officers agree that the Compass Card is a public relations disaster. He has to deal with frustrated riders all day every day, and he's glad he's retiring soon.

    It has taken MTS over ten years to implement the Compass Card; It has cost over $40 million dollars and is a public relations disaster; MTS is cutting back service starting on Feb 28–up to 40% reduction on some bus lines, because of a $20million shortfall in available funds–if only they had that $40million back from the Compass Card project. Wow!

    Fortunately, you can still buy paper passes for another month or so. I'm going to buy them (you can't buy them online any more–you have to go to Vons or the Transit Store) as long as they are available, and then I'm going back to driving. Even with my bad eyesight. It's better than a $250 citation. And yes, my eye doctor says my eyesight is OK to drive.

  2. Rob on February 4th, 2010 12:07 pm

    Hi ERv, and thank you for the comment. It was very insightful, typical and enlightening all at the same time!

            I transfer every morning at 12th & Imperial from the southbound Orange Line to the southbound Blue Line. The only problem is that there are no Compass Card validators on the platform between to two trolleys! Can you believe that? The blue line trolley is usually sitting there waiting when my orange line pulls into the station, so time is of the essence, but since there are no validators between the trains, I have to deboard on the OPPOSITE side of the orange trolley, tap my Compass Card and then walk AROUND the orange trolley and to board the blue line.

            This is a perfect example of just how stupid SDMTS and the Compass Cards are, and why I believe they are a slick scam to generate revenue. Every morning, three packed trolley cars with commuters that need to tap their Compass Cards must do so on the opposite side of the platform that they need to go, share three validators and then run around to the other side of the platform to catch the trolley. This bottleneck means that not everyone can tap before the blue line leaves, and others don't even try.

           I think that SDMTS neglected to place validators between the trains so that people would not or COULD not tap, and thusly be issued a fine.

    .-= Rob´s last blog ..Compass Cards Reloaded =-.

  3. Nightstorm on April 21st, 2010 2:02 am

    Not only all that, but it's an invasion of privacy. I'm telling them where I'm going everytime I get on a bus or trolley. But what can be done? I want them gone.

  4. Rob on April 21st, 2010 3:54 am

    I very much agree about the invasion of privacy issue. SDMTS touts one of the compass card benefits as being able to "register" your card, so if it lost or stolen, you'll get a new card. The only problem is that your name, address AND phone number are required and kept on file in order to register. That does indeed mean that SDMTS can track specific people that use registered cards.

    Try asking a trolley security guard for that info, or a bus driver. They would tell you to go to Hell.
    .-= Rob´s last blog ..Wild Animal Park’s Butterfly Jungle =-.

  5. Gary Tamoria on July 15th, 2011 6:15 am

    My daughter was 19 yrs old and had her compass card reloaded at Vons in Imperial Beach California and in doing so, she needed to show the cashier her valid State ID which she did and the cashier took and reloaded her MTS Compass card. While on the Trolley she was approached by trolley security and asked to see her pass and ID, the compass card that Vons reloaded was a youth card and my daughter received a citation and was fined $97.00 by the court. Would it make it right for a liquor store owner to sell alcohol to a minor knowing the buyer was under age after checking his or her ID? Who is really responsible for the fine, the seller or the consumer? I think it's all a scheme!

  6. Fran on June 5th, 2012 3:09 pm

    It used to be that if you bought those old paper passes you'd get a discount on or after the 15th of each month.You would only pay half price the cost of the card.
    NOW with the Compass card this has been discontinued. 🙁

  7. Jeff on July 7th, 2013 8:54 pm

    I'm a little confused as to why I'd want one, too…I'm temporarily sharing a car with my wife and thought I'd get one of these to make using the bus/trolley easier. I assumed (not knowing much about them) that I would buy some amount of credit, and that would then be deducted from my account each time I used it…i.e., I load the card with $50, and it gets debited some amount for each trip. Like, say, a Starbucks gift card. But it doesn't seem to work that way…if I buy a day pass, or a 2-day pass, or whatever, that time period starts as soon as it's purchased. Not to mention, it takes three days for it to appear on the card if I load it online? What the hell sense does that make? How is it any more convenient than just buying day passes at the station or paying cash on the bus? And you're going to charge me $2 for the privilege? Since I plan to use transit only 2-3 days per week, a monthly pass is not really a good value for me anyway; I'd pay less just buying day passes. It's not super convenient to always be sure to have exact bus fare, either, but it seems a better option than this ridiculous scheme.

    And now, realizing that I have to tap it on every single leg of a journey (whereas with a paper pass I could simply carry it and show it on demand) it seems like a complete boondoggle. I think I'll stick to cash, thanks. What were they thinking?

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