Members of Calgary Transit are hitting the road over the next two weeks to investigate the issue of smart cards in places like Vancouver and Salt Lake City.
Doug Morgan, Director of Transit, told council that technology has changed rapidly since the city first started investigating whether to switch to payment by smart card.
He says instead of smart cards transit users are paying on their smart phones.
“What we’re finding is that the technology is changing from the original project that we had.”
Mayor Naheed Nenshi says he was surprised to learn that officials would be traveling to other cities to conduct research.
“I’m a little surprised in fact that site visits are required in order to do this stuff, but I’ve been very clear on this, I love gadgets… but we have to have real benefit,” he said.
Nenshi says he doesn’t see much of a benefit to using smart cards.
“It really, really only has a benefit to one particular customer and that is a customer who starts their journey on the bus, where there is no ticket vending machine, and doesn’t have exact change,” he says, “and for me it seemed like a lot of money for that one customer.”
Morgan says the current system used by Calgary Transit costs the city very little in comparison to what a smart card system would cost.
“One of the challenges is our current system is very efficient, very cost efficient,” he says. “The cost of actually providing the current system of tickets and fares is about four per cent, which is very low.”
In 2016 the city implemented tap-and-go on LRT platforms, as well as kiosks that let you pay by smartphone.
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He says the city will also be talking with the City of Edmonton and BC Transit on whether there are any partnership opportunities.
Morgan says Calgary Transit will make its case on whether to move forward with smart cards, when capital spending projects are discussed early next year.
In the meantime, he says legal action between the city and a company that was going to provide an electronic fare payment system remains before the courts.
-With files from Aurelio Perri