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MTS Adds Long-Delayed ‘Stored Value’ To Compass Card

An MTS rider swipes his credit card at an MTS ticket machine in April 2013.

Photo by Katie Schoolov

Above: An MTS rider swipes his credit card at an MTS ticket machine in April 2013.

MTS Adds Long-Delayed 'Stored Value' To Compass Card

GUEST:

Andrew Bowen, metro reporter, KPBS

Transcript

Starting Wednesday, public transit riders in San Diego will be able to store money on their Compass Cards. The function, branded Compass Cash, was promised a decade ago before the Compass Card system came online.

Starting Wednesday, San Diego public transit riders will be able to load and store money on their Compass Cards and use their balance to pay bus, trolley, Sprinter and Coaster fares.

The new "stored value" function, branded Compass Cash, fulfills a promise made a decade ago when the Compass Card system was first being created. Shifting priorities and software glitches have repeatedly delayed its launch.

RELATED: San Diego’s MTS Compass Card Stuck In The Past

Mark Olson, spokesman for the Metropolitan Transit System, said customers can add to their Compass Cash balance online, at the agency's transit store or at a ticket vending machine.

"It's a really convenient option for the occasional riders or those people who want more flexibility for their payment options," he said.

San Diego has long been conspicuously absent from the list of cities offering a stored value option to public transit riders. The nonprofit Circulate San Diego launched a campaign last year to pressure MTS into adding stored value.

"We're really excited to see stored value being implemented by MTS," said Colin Parent, Circulate San Diego's policy counsel. "This new improvement is going to make the transit system much more accessible and affordable for all kinds of San Diegans."

Stored value tends to benefit so-called "choice riders" — those who may own a car but choose to ride public transit on occasion. Previously, the only way to pay for a single ride on a bus was with exact change in cash. In March MTS launched a new mobile ticketing app, Compass Cloud, that allows transit riders to buy daily and multi-day passes on their smartphones.

Olson said riders using Compass Cash should register their cards for balance protection with MTS in case they lose their Compass Cards.

The Compass Card system first came online in 2009 under the management of the San Diego Association of Governments, which plans and funds public transit. SANDAG handed the system over to MTS, which operates public transit in most of the county, in 2014.

Last year, KPBS reported the Compass Card system was failing to follow the data security standards set by credit card companies, placing the personal information of thousands of transit riders at a greater risk of being stolen. The data security gaps have existed since the card system was first implemented. Should a data breach occur, taxpayers and fare-paying transit riders would likely have to cover any resulting fraudulent charges.

The Compass Card system is still out of compliance. Olson said MTS has made security upgrades to its system and that staff would be giving more details to the agency's board of directors in the coming months.

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