Fix the Compass Card


Beginning in 2016, Circulate launched a "Fix the Compass Card" campaign, advocating for reforms to the region’s fare payment systems. 

On September 1, 2021, our mission was completed when MTS and NCTD launched the new PRONTO system. It was a complete success! 

In 2016, KPBS revealed that the MTS Compass Card is not “PCI complaint,” leaving customers vulnerable to credit card fraud. Our campaign to "Fix the Compass Card" called on the agency to update their system to fix its vulnerabilities, and to include the basic features available to riders on systems in other regions. 

We first campaigned successfully to implement stored value on the former Compass Card. Later, we advocated successfully for free transfers for one-way fares, which were incorporated into PRONTO.

To the credit of the MTS staff, they also went above and beyond, by including a fare-capping policy into the new system. Now riders will never over-pay when they take more transit rides than they planned.

These improvements will help the system be accessible and fair for new customers, occasional riders, and tourists visiting from out of town.


Read up on the extensive coverage of our campaign below:

KPBS: San Diego’s MTS Compass Card Stuck In The Past, January 14, 2016

KPBS: MTS Admits Credit Card Security Gaps, February 29, 2016

KPBS: MTS Board Members Ask For Faster Data Security Upgrades, March 3, 2016

Times of San Diego: Critical KPBS Report Sparks Call for MTS to Issue New Payment Cards, March 8, 2016

KPBS: Zapf, Alvarez Join Campaign To ‘Fix’ MTS Compass Card, March 8, 2016

Union Tribune: Editorial - MTS, get on board with security, stored value, March 12, 2016

Union Tribune: Relief may come for inflexible MTS payment method, April 9, 2016

KPBS: MTS Compass Card Was Insecure From The Beginning, April 13, 2016

KPBS: MTS Aims For ‘Stored Value’ On Compass Card By November, June 3, 2016

Union Tribune: Looking for more flexible MTS ticketing? Keep waiting, September 2, 2016

KPBS: MTS ‘Stored Value’ Launch Delayed To Early 2017, November 16, 2016

Union Tribune: More flexible Compass card won't happen until January, December 6, 2016

KPBS: MTS Launching Mobile Ticketing App — With Limits, March 9, 2017

Union Tribune: Why is San Diego so behind national curve on one-way fares for trolleys, buses and commuter rail?, April 17, 2017

KPBS: MTS Adds Long-Delayed "Stored Value" to Compass Card, June 27, 2017

Union Tribune: Bus, trolley riders can now store money on Compass Card, June 28, 2017

KPBS: Data Suggest Transit Riders Like New MTS Fare Options, December 27, 2017

Voice of San Diego: MTS’s Old Board Is Rushing to Adopt a New Fare Payment System, December 13, 2018

Union Tribune: Fare hikes expected to accelerate decline in bus, train riders, July 1, 2019

Times of San Diego: MTS To Spend $34 Million On New Fare Collection System, July 15, 2019

KPBS: MTS Raising Fares To Close $10M Budget ShortfallAugust 20, 2019

Government Technology: As Budgets Sag, San Diego Transit Proposes Fare Hikes, January 8, 2021

Voice of San Diego: MTS Board Pursuing Transit Advocate’s ‘Free Transfer’ Policy,  March 6, 2021

KPBS: MTS To Lower Youth Fares, Bring Back Free Transfers On Busses And Trolleys, March 11, 2021

NBC 7 San Diego: Will Free Rides, WiFi Get San Diegans to Ride Mass Transit?, August 25, 2021

Mass Transit Magazine: San Diego MTS, NCTD launch new PRONTO fare collection system, September 2, 2021

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