Tap on, tap off: Edmonton region to pilot Arc smart fare transit payment this summer

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Some transit users in the Edmonton area will be able to tap on and off with newly-branded Arc cards this summer as part of the region’s smart fare pilot.

Edmonton Transit Service (ETS) and its regional partners announced the pilot and unveiled the name of the system Tuesday, while also turning on the smart fare machines for the first time.

Adults from Edmonton, St. Albert and Strathcona County who choose to participate in the testing ahead of the fall launch will pay bus or LRT fare through the Arc electronic fare payment system from early July until the end of August. Those interested in taking part can sign up at edmonton.ca.

Carrie Hotton-MacDonald, branch manager of ETS, explained the meaning of the Arc name in a news release.

“Arc symbolizes forging a path between two points, much like how transit connects us to vital services, each other and our region,” she said, describing the unveiling of the name and the turning on of the smart fare machines as important milestones.

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Arc card readers have already been installed on most participating transit agency buses, and vending machines are being installed in Edmonton LRT stations and key regional transit hubs. These machines will accept cash, debit or credit card payment and remain off until the summer pilot begins.

Riders will still be able to pay with cash, paper passes and paper tickets, but once Arc users hit the cost of a monthly pass, they can ride for free for the rest of the month under a fair cap system.

Cash will be stored in an Arc account, not on the card itself, so as long as users register, their credit can be recovered if a card is lost or stolen.

Arc will be rolled out in Edmonton, St. Albert, Strathcona County, Leduc, Spruce Grove, Fort Saskatchewan and Beaumont, after being tested in the pilot and by transit staff.

Will Steblyk, service delivery manager for St. Albert transit, said it didn’t make sense for each municipality to have an independent electronic fare system.

“We want it to be consistent. That was a major goal of this project,” he said.

Phase 1 of the Arc program will launch this fall for all adults and post-secondary students, who represent the bulk of transit riders. Full implementation will launch in 2022 to include more transit users, including those who use the Ride Transit Program and seniors passes.

The cost of setting up the Arc program is about $50 million, with Edmonton pitching in approximately $18 million.



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