Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Octopus Still Leads the Pack

Commuter uses the Compass card to "tap in" on the bus in Greater Vancouver
When I was in Vancouver over the holidays, I saw commuters on public transit using Compass cards to "tap in" on buses and the Sky Train.

It has been years in the making for Translink, the public transit system for Metro Vancouver to finally switch from paper monthly passes to plastic ones, similar to Octopus cards in Hong Kong, that have been in use since 1997.

The MTR's Octopus cards have been around since 1997
The deadline to completely move to Compass cards was January 1, and so tens of thousands of people were not only purchasing the cards but also trying to add money on them in order to use them.

However, unlike Octopus cards where you can add cash and the value is immediately transferred to the card, it takes commuters in Vancouver two hours for this transaction to be processed on Compass cards by paying with cash, debit or credit.

And because of the exceptionally high volume of new users in the first few days of 2016, it took much more than two hours for people's Compass cards to load up with money before they could actually use it, resulting in a lot of frustration.

Can you imagine if that situation happened in Hong Kong?

People here wouldn't even stand having to wait two hours before being able to use their Octopus cards. They are already at the end of their patience waiting in line to add money to their card.

There was a rush to buy Compass cards in Vancouver
It's an interesting contrast to find that Octopus cards pretty much still reign supreme when it comes to public transit. And with a on-time performance rating of over 99 percent, how can anyone complain about practically one of the world's most efficient transit systems in the world?

Vancouver's got some catching up to do. Two hours to add value to a card? Not an efficient step in the right direction...


  1. Totally agree about Octopus cards being great and so much better than equivalent devices in other parts of the world. (I really felt this while in the Netherlands recently; there are so few places that one can use and reload its OV-chipkaart!)

    Which is why I couldn't understand the rash of articles in various news media decrying the Octopus card as out-dated last August!

    1. Hi YTSL -- I was just flabbergasted to find out it took two hours for the money value to be added to the Compass card... why isn't it instant, particularly when paid in cash or debit?!