Not all transit users are convinced program will be successful

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Calgary Transit plans to implement a new way to pay for transit, but at least one transit rider isn’t convinced this new system will thrive.

 The new electronic fare payment system, which is set to debut in June, will allow consumers to pay their fare with the tap of a card.

At any bus or C-train station, the system will read a user’s card and deduct fare from the card’s balance. The system will be akin to a Calgary Transit gift card, giving customers the choice to use a disposable, preloaded or reloadable card.

“I don’t think that the electronic fare payment will be successful,” said Gabrielle Nadon, a Calgary Transit user of eight years.

Nadon believes regular riders, such as students and youth who already pay for transit passes as part of their tuition, would see no reason to take advantage of the new system.

“The system would only be targeted [toward] a small number of people, not having enough of a benefit,” she said. “The only people who might buy it are casual transit users, people who go to the bar or a football game on a Friday night.”

Calgary Transit tickets

Paper transit tickets and passes may become a thing of the past thanks to Calgary Transit’s incoming electronic fare payment system.

Photo by: Aryn GuthrieHowever, Victoria Lo, a transit user for seven years, believes that the electronic system will prove useful.

“If you just have to have the card on you and scan it, I think it’d be a great idea because it’s like the U-pass [for university students], and it’s so convenient,” said Lo.

“I think people would rather [use] the card over the packets of train tickets. You can reload the card, meaning less waste. The only problem I see with the card is that you’d have to keep track of how much you [have] on it.”

Theresa Schroder, communications strategist for Calgary Transit, says they’ve decided to execute the system after careful research.

“We don’t have unlimited money, we wanted to gauge how successful it was in other cities before we put it into Calgary,” said Schroder. “We’ve looked into cities all over the world such as Vancouver, Saskatoon, Miami, Madrid; it seemed to have worked.”

Ontario has named their electronic card Presto, and the system is currently in place throughout the Toronto and Hamilton area, with plans to bring the card to Ottawa in spring 2012.

Schroder says it won’t be saving Calgary Transit money in the long run, stating that they “still have costs, and things still need to be printed.”

“It’s not for us,” she said, referring to the staff and directors of Calgary Transit. “It is more of a benefit to Calgary Transit consumers. The new system [won’t cost riders] more money than bus passes.”

Calgary Transit’s website says it will cost $7 million to implement the new system, with funds coming from the Building Canada Fund, dedicated to advance priorities that are important to all Canadians.

In the meantime, Ron Collins, communications co-ordinator for Calgary Transit, holds on to an optimistic view of the system.

“I do believe that the system will be successful,” he said. “With the tap of the card it (paying) will be so fast and easy for Calgary Transit users. More than that, it will allow us to provide more data on who uses transit.

“At the end of the day, we’re hopeful; we want to do away with paper material like bus passes and tickets,” he added.

The electronic fare payment system has been named the Connect Smart Card, after Calgary Transit held a contest asking Calgarians to submit and vote on a name.

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