News Local

Compass costs $23 million more than expected

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

TransLink's Compass Card system is expected to cost about $23 million more than originally planned. (24 HOURS FILE PHOTO)

TransLink's Compass Card system is expected to cost about $23 million more than originally planned. (24 HOURS FILE PHOTO)

TransLink’s Compass Card system will cost about $23 million more than initially expected because the system launch was delayed, and the transit authority had earlier assumed a project partner would take on costs for “some parts of the project.”

TransLink said Wednesday about half of the $23-million jump stemmed from increased inflation costs following the delay.

The capital cost for the Compass Card was initially $171 million when it was announced several years ago. That number is now $194.2 million.

TransLink vice-president Bob Paddon said the other part — also about $11 million — was due to “increased scope” unanticipated when the initial capital costs of Compass were calculated.

“So as a result of working with the supplier, there are some parts of the project TransLink has agreed it would do, rather than what the supplier would do.”

According to TransLink’s 2014 Base Plan, operating Compass in the short-term would cost about $19.8 million “for the remainder of the plan,” which covers the years through 2016.

Paddon said operating the system is expected to cost more in the beginning to cover marketing, distribution and public education costs.

The long-term, ongoing operational costs — which are about $12 million annually, according to the base plan — would be paid to Compass contractor Cubic, Paddon said.

TransLink has said in the past that fare evasion accounts for about $7 million to $10 million in lost revenue each year. But even if it costs more to operate the system than savings from fare evaders, Mayors’ Council chairman Richard Walton — mayor of North Vancouver District — said the contractor would gather a gamut of data currently unavailable to TransLink without Compass.

“Even though it may cost $12 million as opposed to $7 million savings, the value of that additional $5 million in information — allowing you to allocate your resources better in the future — it may well justify itself,” he said, adding “a little slippage or latitude” early in the budget is acceptable if the system works without hiccups later.

“But if it comes forward with a Compass plan and it’s not working properly, and we have people who are being denied access or overcharged … there will be a significant public pushback.”

Dermod Travis, executive director of taxpayer watchdog Integrity B.C., said the case highlights a “constant underestimation” of costs being presented to politicians, who then don’t have the full picture when they approve projects.

“When you see the real costs come in, you’re seeing this extreme variance from what was originally estimated to what it’s actually going to cost. That’s not fair.”



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