Compass Card

Compass Card


Compass Card Examples

Compass Card Example.svg
2007 Series
Compass Card
Compass card 2010.svg
2010 Series
Compass Card
Location San Diego County, California, USA

  • October 1, 2008
(Pilot Testing)
  • May 1, 2009
(System wide Launch Begins)
  • May 1, 2010
(paper passes discontinued, comppass card is now official transit pass fair media for San Diego county)
Technology Contactless smart card by Cubic Transportation Systems, Inc.
Manager San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG)
Currency US$ (No stored value credit available at this time; 30-day and monthly passes maximum load)
Auto recharge Available upon request for registered cardholders
Validity MTS Bus
  MTS Trolley (except Silver Line)
  NCTD Breeze
  NCTD Coaster
  NCTD Sprinter

Variants Adult Compass Card
  Youth Compass Card
(50% Discount)
  Senior-Disabled-Medicare Compass Card (75% Discount)

The Compass Card is a form of electronic ticketing used on public transport services within San Diego County, California. It is administered by the San Diego Association of Governments and is valid on a number of different travel systems in San Diego County including MTS buses, the San Diego Trolley (with the exception of the Silver Line), North County Busses, the Coaster and the Sprinter. The card and fare collection systems are manufactured by Cubic Transportation Systems, Inc. and SANDAG administers the Compass Call Center (CCC) a central call center for all agencies.



The Compass Card is a orange or yellow, credit-card-sized contactless smartcard which can hold a Transit Pass. The Compass Card card must tapped on electronic readers when entering and transferring within the system in order to validate it. Compass Card readers are integrated in bus fareboxes and standalone readers are located just outside of the paid area of Rail stations. Because San Diego Trolley, the Coaster and the Sprinter are currently barrier free systems, fare inspectors check to make sure compass card users have validated their card by using a wireless handheld unit. The cards may be "recharged" in person from TVM's in Rail stations, at MTS or NCTD Transit Offices, at any VONS store or online. The card is designed to reduce the number of transactions at Customer Service Centers. Currently the San Diego Association of Governments only sells monthly passes on the compass card system-wide, and 14day passes via telephone, but plans to sell stored cash value cards in the future capable of automatically purchasing a day pass on the first "tap".


Customers will be able to perform the following transactions at the corresponding locations with a Compass Card as indicated below

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Available And Functioning
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Available And Functioning

Full Adult Fare ONLY

Locations Buy a
new card
Reload an
existing card
with cash
with credit / debit
Sign up
for auto reload
your card
The Transit Store
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Call 511 and say "Compass Card"
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Compass Card account management website
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Trolley, Coaster, and Sprinter ticket vending machines
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Select San Diego county Vons and check cashing locations
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The following process takes place when a user "taps" their card on a reader:

  • Authenticates the microchip's serial number (to avoid counterfeited or stolen cards)
  • Reads the rider's balance and/or passes
  • Reports the rider's activity to the Compass Card server
  • Writes the new balance (if applicable)

The next behavior depends on the reader:

  • Displays a Thank You message along with a small green light for on-platform readers such as the Coaster, Sprinter, and San Diego Trolley.
  • Shows green light and beeps once if Compass Card has valid fare, or shows a red light with an error message and beeps three times if the card is not valid or a read error occurs, for readers installed next to fareboxes. For passes, the expiration date of the pass is also displayed when the green light is lit and the reader beeps once.
  • Beeps once if the Compass card has valid fare, or beeps three times if the card is not valid or a read error occurs, for readers integrated into the farebox. For passes, the expiration date of the pass is also displayed shortly after the reader beeps once.
  • The driver's side computer will also show OK for a successful pass read. A type of bird vocalization that sounds different from the standard confirmation beep will occur for Youth or Senior/Disabled/Medicare passes that are valid, and the driver's side computer will show YTH for the Youth pass or SDM for the Senior/Disabled/Medicare pass.

Read errors that are displayed on the reader screen can include, but are not limited to:

  • Invalid CRC.
  • Invalid Card, can occur the first time on some readers even with a valid card, but if the card is valid a second attempt will register correctly. (The driver's side computer will show as NV for an invalid card error).
  • Operation Failed, if an add value was initiated from the farebox computer but did not work.
  • Read Error. (Seems to occur only on some readers integrated into the farebox, and turning the card sideways when tapping may work around this problem).
  • Feedback used too soon. (The driver's side computer will show as FBK for a feedback related error).
  • Already Touched.


SANDAG offers the following benefits to all Compass Card users:

  • First Compass Card now cost $2.00
  • Automatic refill (registered users only)
  • Pass or balance replacement on lost or stolen cards (does not cover the retail cost of a new card, $2.00 USD)
  • Online store & card management (account manager for express passholders only)
  • Telephone customer service
  • Photo ID integration was offered, but has been discontinued (for senior-disabled-medicare or youth discount pass pass-holders only)
  • Compass Card users may purchase a 30 day "rolling pass" valid for 30 days from the date of purchase in addition to the traditional monthly pass good for a calendar month (monthly pass only for adult Sprinter/Breeze).
  • 14-day passes can be loaded onto the Compass Card at the cost of 60% of a monthly pass (adult Regional and Premium passes only).

Photo gallery

A Compass Card rail validatior 
Computer rendering of a Compass Card ticket machine 
A Compass Card being "tapped" on an integrated farebox validatior 
Compass Card Validatior Symbol 

External links

  1. Compass Card
  2. Metropolitan Transit System
  3. North County Transit District
  4. San Diego's Traffic, Transit and Commute Info
  5. Compass Card FAQs


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Compass card — Compass Com pass (k[u^]m pas), n. [F. compas, fr. LL. compassus circle, prop., a stepping together; com + passus pace, step. See {Pace}, {Pass}.] 1. A passing round; circuit; circuitous course. [1913 Webster] They fetched a compass of seven day s …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • compass card — n. the circular card mounted on a free pivot inside a compass and marked with the points of direction and, often, the degrees of the circle …   English World dictionary

  • compass card — compass rose, circular card attached to the needle of a mariner s compass on which the degrees indicating direction are marked …   English contemporary dictionary

  • compass card — noun compass in the form of a card that rotates so that 0 degrees or North points to magnetic north • Syn: ↑mariner s compass • Hypernyms: ↑magnetic compass …   Useful english dictionary

  • compass card — A drumlike scale, marked in degrees from 001° to 360°, fastened around the float in an aircraft magnetic compass. Compass correction/deviation card …   Aviation dictionary

  • compass card — com′pass card n. naut. navig. a circular card displaying the points of the compass that rotates freely to point to magnetic north • Etymology: 1870–75 …   From formal English to slang

  • compass card — noun Date: 1789 the circular card attached to the needles of a mariner s compass on which are marked the 360° of the circle and 32 equidistant points …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • compass card — Navig. a circular card with magnets attached to its underside, the face divided on its rim into points of the compass, degrees clockwise from north, or both, and floating or suspended from a pivot so as to rotate freely. [1870 75] * * * …   Universalium

  • compass card — noun a circular rotating card showing the thirty two principal bearings, forming the indicator of a magnetic compass …   English new terms dictionary

  • compass card — /ˈkʌmpəs kad/ (say kumpuhs kahd) noun a circular card attached to the needle of a mariner s compass, on which the degrees or points indicating direction are marked …   Australian English dictionary