Why I Curse the Compass Card

Taking the bus should be easy. But it’s not in San Diego.

I’m not complaining about there not being enough buses, so if you miss your bus you have to wait 20 minutes for the next one. I’m not talking about the buses getting stuck in traffic and running late.  Just paying for a trip is a huge pain.

If you want to take the bus you have to dig for change.

Not much point using Compass Card unless you use it every day.

Doesn’t pay to have this card unless it has stored value.

But even that only works if you have exactly two dollars and 25 cents for a one-way ticket. I’m sure a scientific survey would reveal that absolutely nobody has exactly $2.25 in their pocket or purse.

The Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) needs to find a way to make it easy to use their products. They need to make stored value a function of the Compass Card. It’s like when you use a Starbuck’s Card. You get 20 bucks on a Starbuck’s Card. Every time you use it, it deducts the cost of your beverage from the card and leaves you with the balance.

That’s stored value.

It’s only worthwhile to buy a Compass Card if you are willing to pay $72 a month for use of bus and trolley. And that is only worthwhile if you commute to work on public transit. If any of the rest of us buy a Compass Card, we pay for a bunch of rides we’re never going to use.

If you had stored value on a Compass Card, it would be just like Starbucks. The cost of your trip that day is deducted and the balance remains, until the next time you want to use transit. You don’t pay for trips you don’t want or need. It’s a great idea! In fact, MTS agrees with me. Read the following.

In the future, a stored value option will be available on the Compass Card. When a Compass Card loaded with stored value is tapped, the price of a day pass appropriate for the service will be deducted from the balance of the card. Stored value will be used on all bus and rail service within the San Diego region.

That’s from the MTS website. Well it’s the future, people! Why isn’t stored value available yet?

Getting people to choose public transportation rather than a car is good for the environment and good for the life of the city. But you can’t get people to choose a bus or a trolley, rather than their car, when you have to dig for change or buy a bunch of transit rides you’re never going to use.


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2 Comments on “Why I Curse the Compass Card”

  1. Lev Says:

    I spent about 20 minutes googling, and going through all MTS/Norhth County websites, trying to figure out how to look up the balance on the existing card. I can’t believe nobody in the entire San Diego county ever wanted to check their balance. I’m a software developer and I know how easy it is to implement this feature, so the fact that it’s absent leads to only one reason – they’ve made that on purpose, so you can forget and loose some change balance on your old card.

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