Compass Card operator faces three U.S. lawsuits
TransLink's Compass Card provider Cubic Transportation Systems is facing three proposed class-action suits in Chicago, Ill. for a fare card system it built there that has been plagued by criticism. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)
The company operating TransLink’s Compass Card system is facing three proposed class action lawsuits from angry U.S. customers who claim their tap-on cards were charging “sometimes three or four times” for a single fare.
TransLink — which is in a $220-million contract with Cubic Transportation Systems — was set to launch Compass in spring 2013, but now says rolling it out in a “phased” approach, instead of all at once, was a good idea.
“We’re taking steps to make sure before we launch we have things right,” TransLink vice-president Mike Madill told 24 hours.
“We’re doing lots of testing as we go along. Really, it’s that standard that we’re holding Cubic to, to make sure the ability to accurately process all the elements is there until we launch.”
Madill said TransLink was cautioned by other cities that contracted Cubic to take it slow in the early stages of its program.
None of the U.S. allegations have been proven in court. The defendants have denied the claims.
According to plaintiff Stacy Allen’s claim, she described the Chicago fare-card system — called Ventra — as “death by a thousand cuts” as problems plagued the system since its September 2013 launch.
Allen claimed it was only after careful review of her account that she found out she was charged twice for a single trip.
Another suit describes how customer Min Ro tried to load money onto her pass from her debit — which transferred the money — but the value was never loaded onto her Ventra account.
The third claimant, James Kenger, alleged that charges are sometimes taken directly from his bank account since Ventra is linked to his debit card.
Furthermore, in a news release issued in late December, the Chicago Transit Authority said it’s seeking $1.2 million back from Cubic for about 950,000 combined bus and rail rides given away for free because of “Ventra fare-equipment issues.”
CTA’s Lambrini Lukidis said the Ventra system accepts both touchless debit and credit cards and it’s possible some customers slapped their whole wallet on the machine before going through a turnstile.
Others, she said, were impatient and tapped more than once when a turnstile was slow to open. Lukidis pointed out the system has since been upgraded to a faster pace.
TransLink currently has 85,000 Compass Card holders using the system. However, the gates are yet to be shut and the existing users don’t have fares deducted in a “stored-value” format since their cards are valid for all zones.
West Coast Express users — there are about 5,000 daily riders — are the next group expected to begin tapping.
Madill said Compass also wouldn’t allow touchless credit and debit cards when first rolled out. According to Cubic’s 2011 press release announcing the contract, the system is supposed to have that capability.
But he said comparing Ventra and Compass is like comparing “an iPhone with an Android,” albeit in this case, they share the same manufacturer.
Compass isn’t without its own issues, though. Madill added some users have reported an “error message” when they try to tap and that problem is now being tweaked.
“All the experience in Chicago did was it just reinforced our approach of taking it slow and phasing it in is the best practice,” he added.
— with files from the Cook County Record
Ventra Card allegations and problems:
- multiple charges on a single fare
- fares taken directly from bank account instead of Ventra
- paid fares not loaded onto card
- 950,000 “free” rides given in error
- money charged for speaking with live customer service
Source: Northern Illinois District Court filings, Chicago Transit Authority
TransLink Compass issues:
- bus transfers not compatible on rail
- initial launch date of spring 2013 unmet
- exceeded budget by $23 million
- bugs within system being “tweaked” through testing