Tips For First Time Transit Users

(A Bus in Downtown Vancouver by Albert Stoynov, Unsplash License)

As someone that commutes frequently, I know how difficult it can be to deal with transit. The first few times I used it, I panicked and relied on my friends and family for guidance every step of the way. While they can be a great resource, not everyone knows where to begin, and that’s okay! Using transit can feel like a maze no matter how experienced you are. So, here are some tips from a transit pro for your first trip and beyond!

TransLink Compass Card by GoToVan from Flickr, CC BY 4.0

What is a Compass Card and how do I use it?

First things first: a Compass Card will likely be your main form of payment, so it’s probably best to know what it is. There are other forms of fare (eg. tickets, cash…), however if you’ll be in Vancouver for over a week, a Compass Card will likely be the most convenient option. So, what is it?

Well, it’s a type of fare that can be bought for $6 AND reloaded through these options:

  • The Compass website
  • Any Compass Vending Machine (locations here)
  • Over the phone at 604-398-2042
  • In-person: here and at the UBC Bookstore

U-Pass or regular fare

As a student, certain universities (including UBC) will provide a monthly U-Pass, which can be accessed here:

  1. Select your school
  2. Access with your institution’s login information
  3. Link a Compass Card

Request (monthly) email/text reminders if desired!

Another option is to opt out of the provided passes and instead load money onto the card as:

  • Stored Value: a set amount of money that can be loaded onto the card to be used at any time – best for infrequent commuters!
  • Day/Monthly Passes: a purchased (or pre-purchased) pass for the day or month – best for frequent commuters!
TransLink Bus by GoToVan from Flickr, CC BY 4.0

Zones and tapping in/out

When purchasing Day/Monthly Passes, it’s important to note the zones. But what does that mean? In short, zones are a way to calculate the price of a trip depending on the geographical location (one-zone or two-zone).
– Zone 1 outlines the border of Vancouver
– Zone 2 outlines the borders of Richmond, New Westminster, and Burnaby
– Zone 3 runs along the entire North Shore.
To learn more about zones, TransLink has all the nitty gritty details here!

Another thing to note is where to tap your card, and when. In BC, the tapping stations will be marked by the blue Compass logo–just gently place the card on top and wait for the green checkmark. While getting on a bus, one tap is enough; for the SkyTrain, SeaBus, and West Coast Express, tap both in AND out.

Didn’t buy a Compass Card? Tap a credit card instead! A single tap also lasts for 90 minutes, so don’t worry! It won’t charge again within the timeframe. And finally, after thanking the driver, your first trip is complete! I like to plan ahead using Google Maps and the Transit app. Another helpful tip for your first trip is to check for any delays or reroutes! A lot to process, I know, but hopefully this will make your first ride a breeze. Let us know about your transit adventures in the comments below!

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