San Diego MTS Wiki


The Compass Card is A contactless smart card system in San Diego county maintained by the San Diego Association of Governments. It allows riders of both MTS and NCTD to store cash value and/or paperless tickets on a single card, so it can be used on MTS buses, the MTS Trolley, NCTD buses (Breeze), NCTD Coaster, and NCTD Sprinter routes. Unlike traditional magnetic transit cards, the compass card cannot become de-magnetized, however, the manufacture of the compass card, Cubic Transportation Systems, advises not to intentionally send it through the washer and/or dryer, and to keep it away form other contactless smart cards. Unlike traditional paper passes, if a compass card is reported lost or stolen the card is de-activated and the customer can purchase a new card to be received via mail with the existing balance and/or passes loaded onto it. The card itself is intended to be re-loadable and re-usable for up to five years, at which point the card will need to be replaced.

System Construction Status[]

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

Available And Functioning As Of November 1st 2009
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Coming Soon

Cards are being issued in four phases as shown bellow

Cards Available For
Phase 1- NCTD Coaster ($182.00/Month Adult Fare), MTS Premium Express Pass-holders ($90.00/Month Adult Fare) and youth or disabled equivalent
Phase 2- NCTD Breeze and Sprinter Passes ($59.00/Month Adult Fare) and youth or disabled equivalent
Phase 3- MTS Bus and Trolley ($72.00/Month Adult Fare) and youth or disabled equivalent
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Phase 4- Prepaid Cash Value
Locations Buy a
new card
Reload an
existing card
with cash
with credit / debit
Sign up
for auto reload
your card
The Transit Store
Call 511 and say "Compass Card" transit eStore
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Trolley, Coaster, and Sprinter ticket vending machines
Select San Diego county Vons and check cashing locations

How it works[]

File:Compass demo.svg

a computer rendering demonstrating the use of a compass card

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)
  • Shows green light if Compass Card is valid fare, Shows a red light if not valid


As of November 1st 2009 SANDAG offers the following benefits to all Compass Card users:

  • First Compass Card is free
  • Automatic refill (registered users only)
  • Pass or balance replacement on lost or stolen cards (does not cover the retail cost of a new card, approx $5.00 USD)
  • Online card management
  • Telephone customer service
  • Photo ID integration (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.
  • 14-day passes can be loaded onto the Compass Card at the cost of 60% of a monthly pass.

System Launch Timeline[]

Image gallery[]


  1. Compass card's Official Website
  2. Metropolitan Transit System's Official Website
  3. North County Transit District's Official Website
  4. San Diego's Official Traffic, Transit and Commuter information Homepage
  5. Compass Card Roll-out Schedule

Template:Public Transportation in Greater San Diego