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MTS ‘Stored Value’ Launch Delayed To Early 2017

Photo caption: A transit rider taps a Compass Card onto a card reader on an MTS bus.

Photo by Katie Schoolov

A transit rider taps a Compass Card onto a card reader on an MTS bus.

Software and hardware issues have pushed back the launch of a new function on the MTS Compass Card meant to provide more flexibility in fare payment. The function, branded Compass Cash, is now expected in early 2017.

Software and hardware issues have forced the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System to delay the launch of a "stored value" function on the Compass Card, the agency said Wednesday.

The function, to be branded Compass Cash, will allow transit riders to load money on their fare cards and use the balance to pay for bus and trolley rides as needed. Currently the Compass Card can only be used for daily, multi-day or monthly passes, not single rides. The upgrade was scheduled to be completed by November but is now more likely to come sometime in early 2017, MTS spokesman Rob Schupp said.

"It's really important when you launch something that it's done right," Schupp said. "If we launch and it's not quite right, that will increase frustration. So we want to get it perfect before we get it out into the public."

The extra work on the fare collection system prompted the MTS Board of Directors last week to approve a purchase order of up to $350,000 for Cubic Corporation, the San Diego-based firm that originally developed the Compass Card.

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

MTS faced a similar delay on its mobile ticketing app, which was originally due in August but is now expected by March 31, 2017. The transit agency's board awarded the contract to the tech company moovel North America last April. But rival company Bytemark challenged the competitive bid process, forcing MTS staffers to go back to the board two months later to reaffirm their decision.

The current mobile ticketing app is limited to trolley day passes for special events, such as sports games or Comic-Con.

Both stored value and the new ticketing app are part of an effort to build more flexibility into MTS's fare collection system, which is operated in cooperation with the North County Transit District. The additions will likely provide the greatest benefit to "choice riders" — people who have other transportation options, but choose to ride public transit.

Schupp added that MTS is still working on achieving compliance with the credit card industry's data security standards. KPBS reporting earlier this year revealed the Compass Card system is failing to comply with those standards. The problem has existed since the initial launch of the Compass Card in 2009 when it was under the authority of the county's transportation planning agency, SANDAG.

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