British Columbia

TransLink's new Compass wristbands sell out within hours

Vancouverites are known to wait in line. We've toughed it out for brunch, ice cream, cheese cake and drivers' tests. Now, you can add transit wristbands to that list.

More wristbands to come by February, says the transit authority, while some are already being resold online

The lineup for wristbands snaked out of the SkyTrain Stadium-Chinatown station and down Beatty Street. (Yvette Brend/CBC)

Vancouverites are known to wait in line. We've toughed it out for brunch, ice cream, cheese cake and drivers' tests.

Now, you can add transit wristbands to that list.

TransLink's wearable wristbands, which work the same as a Compass card, went on sale Monday morning and sold out within three hours. 

One thousand blue adult wristbands and 1,000 orange concession wristbands were up for grabs.

At its peak, a lineup of people snaked out of TransLink's customer service centre at Stadium-Chinatown station and trailed down Beatty Street. The wristbands also went on sale at the Waterfront Station service centre.

TransLink users line up for new Compass wristbands

5 years ago
Duration 0:33
The wearable transit wristbands went on sale Monday morning and sold out within three hours.

"I wouldn't say I'm surprised," said TransLink spokesperson Jill Drews.

"We do have a cohort of transit enthusiasts in the area ... I had figured there would be a market for this and it definitely exceeded expectations."

People in line said they valued the convenience of the wristbands. (TransLink )

'It's just convenience'

Like a Compass card, the wristbands can be used to tap in and out when taking transit. They cost $6 and can be reloaded online, just like the card.

TransLink first allowed four wristbands per person, imagining that customers would want to buy some for family members or co-workers, Drews said. 

But the wristbands sold fast and scalpers started hawking them, so TransLink capped the number at two each.

It also cut off the lineup, so that people waiting in line would be guaranteed a wristband. They sold out by 10 a.m.

Those in line offered varying reasons for waiting.

"It's like a new thing I've never had ... It's a kind of a statement," said Twoo Nguyen.

"It's just convenience," Sasha Tarasenko said. "Sometimes, I forget my pass. If you have it, just set it, forget. It's always on you."

Several people said they were planning on reselling the extra ones they bought. Users online grumbled about the limited stock.

By Monday afternoon, at least one was offered online for ten times the price.

People in line told CBC News they were buying extra wristbands to resell them. (Craigslist)

TransLink will have more wristbands by February, Drews said. It's not yet known how many will be ordered or exactly when they'll arrive. The wristbands are made by the same German manufacturer that produces Compass cards.

Wristbands can only be bought in person because staff have to transfer the account data from a Compass card's chip to the chip in the wristband, Drews said.

Pam Horton, vice-president of the B.C. Disability Alliance, said the wristbands add to a growing list of options for riders with disabilities.

Horton rides in a wheelchair and has trouble lifting her arm high enough to tap. She uses a radio-frequency identification enabled card instead to open accessible fare gates.

But the wristband will be useful for others, she said.

Norton noted that TransLink is working closely with the disability alliance on developing more options.

With files from Yvette Brend and CBC's The Early Edition