The Compass Card (Spanish: Tarjeta Compass) was the first-generation smart card used on public transportation services within San Diego County, California. Administered by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), it was valid on a number of different travel systems in San Diego County including MTS buses, the San Diego Trolley, North County Buses, the Coaster and the Sprinter. The system was operated by Cubic Transportation Systems. Phased out over the summer of 2021, It was discontinued on August 31, and its successor, Pronto launched the following day. The smart card IC used in the Campass Card is a MIFARE Classic 1K by NXP Semiconductors.
The Compass Card was an orange or yellow, credit-card-sized contactless smartcard which held a transit pass. The Compass Card card must be tapped on electronic smart card readers when entering and transferring within the system in order to validate it. Compass Card readers were integrated in bus fareboxes and standalone readers are located just outside the paid area of rail stations. Because San Diego Trolley, the Coaster and the Sprinter operate on a proof-of-payment system, fare inspectors randomly checked to make sure Compass Card users have validated their cards by using a wireless handheld unit. The cards were “recharged” in person from TVMs in rail stations, at MTS or NCTD Transit Offices, at Albertsons stores, or online. The card is designed to reduce the number of transactions at customer service centers. Initially the San Diego Association of Governments only offered monthly passes on the compass card system-wide, and 14-day passes via telephone. Stored cash value cards were introduced in 2017, with plans in the future capable of automatically purchasing a day pass on the first tap.
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