TransLink admits that although the new Compass Card payment system is meant to reduce fare evasion on the Metro Vancouver area's regional transit system, early beta testers have already found a loophole.

Users have found that they can "tap in" when boarding a bus and then "tap out" early to reduce the fee deducted from the card.

In effect, under the current zone system, riders would be able to ride for two or three zones, while tapping out early and only paying for one zone's worth of travel.

TransLink vice-president Mike Madill said the apparent loophole is still cheating and anyone caught doing it could be facing a fine.

"If somebody does what you are suggesting, they are in a Fare Paid Zone and they won't have a valid fare, and so they will be subject to a fine, in the event they are inspected, for $173," he said.

That ticket could come from Transit Police or from any of the service's security staff and the fine increases to $213 if unpaid after six months, and to $273 if left unpaid for a year. TransLink has also revamped how it follows-up on unpaid fines, after finding that millions of dollars worth of fines were going unpaid.

"We also linked non-payment offences to ICBC's database, and they can refuse to renew ICBC insurance or issue drivers licences and then, for those who don't have either one of those, unpaid fines may be collected through
collection agencies," Madill said.

TransLink says the Compass Card system with fare gates wasn't designed to eliminate all fare evasion, but is intended to reduce it.

Madill added that no system is perfect.

The Compass Card system will be rolled out in phases over the next six months and will be tied into all TransLink services, from buses, to SkyTrain, to rail.

The cost of the new Compass Card system was originally announced as $171 million, but has since risen to $194 million.

With files from the CBC's Terry Donnelly