St. Albert commuters could soon be using their smart phones or watches to pay for their daily trip into Edmonton.
St. Albert and partnering municipalities of Edmonton and Strathcona County have finalized a deal for the design and implementation of a regional transit electronic fare system.
Last Thursday, the City of Edmonton, which has taken the lead on the project, signed a $31.4 million contract with Vix Technologies, a company specializing in automated fare collection and passenger information systems.
Transit users will no longer have to purchase tickets or carry exact change to ride the bus or LRT. Instead they will have the option to use a credit card, debit card or other compatible smart cards, such as preloaded transit cards or student cards.
The system will eventually become compatible with smart devices, as well, said Will Steblyk, the manager of planning and customer service at St. Albert Transit.
“Using whatever card you have in your pocket or a preloaded card is a level of convenience all transit systems are evolving to,” said Steblyk.
The regional smart fare system will also allow riders to travel across regions using a single account. It is expected to be available for use on board buses and LRT in Edmonton, Strathcona County and St. Albert, as soon as 2020.
As part of the 15-year contract, Vix Technology will be responsible for the design, build, implementation and maintenance of the electronic transit fare system. The system will be designed in a way that allows for expansion into additional regional transit systems.
Vix will work with staff from each municipal transit agency to design the system over the next year. Pilot trials of the program are planned for 2019.
The company will maintain the system for 12 years after the system has been fully implemented.
The regional smart fare project as a whole costs $51.6 million and includes the integration of regional bus stops, schedules and maps; modifications at bus terminals and LRT stations to support new fare equipment; the establishment of a retail network where customers can obtain accounts; and the construction of a state of the art secure website.
The province is covering the majority of the costs through a commitment of $28.1 million in GreenTRIP funding announced in 2015. St. Albert has agreed to contribute $2.2 million to the project, while Edmonton and Strathcona will cover $18.8 million and $2.5 million respectively.
The $2.2 million in initial capital costs committed by St. Albert was determined by fleet size. It will serve to pay for the installation of the Smart Fare software, as well as to replace the fleet’s current real-time arrival system with more modern Smart Bus technology.
The Smart Bus system is needed to support the electronic fare payment system. It will continue to allow for real-time bus tracking information and could be used to adjust traffic signal timing to allow advance greens for buses.
Steblyk said the installation of Smart Bus infrastructure will begin by late fall, but should not affect service.