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Smart Fare is an account-based electronic fare payment system being phased in, starting with pilot testing in fall 2020.  It will allow Edmonton, St. Albert, Strathcona County, Fort Saskatchewan, Leduc, Spruce Grove and Beaumont to consider a range of progressive fare options to improve the transit experience for many customers. Benefits will include no need for paper transfers or upfront payment for monthly/annual transit passes. 

“Pay-As-You-Go” (PAYG) - When Smart Fare is first introduced, this option will allow customers to pay one trip at a time rather than needing a monthly/annual transit pass. When used together with fare capping, the customer pays for each trip when it is made, up to the fare cap for the daily or monthly period. 

In later phases of the Smart Fare program, the PAYG option will also include the ability for customers to use their credit/debit card directly on the bus or LRT station by tapping their bank card or using mobile wallets such as Apple Pay and Google Pay.

Fare Capping - Maximum payment limits will be placed on daily and monthly periods. This benefits frequent transit users. Different fare caps will be set for seniors, youths, and low income individuals in support of inclusiveness and affordability goals. Also, customers would no longer have to prepay a lump sum to receive the transit discounts associated with a monthly pass. 

Fare Cap Image

Distance Based Fares - This approach will replace flat fares and will be introduced in later phases of the Smart Fare program. With distance based fares, each trip is charged based on the number of kilometres travelled. The distance is determined based on the straight line distance between the start and end points of the customer's transit trip, not on the pattern of the route taken. Customers who make shorter trips would pay less for their trip. Customers also would not pay more than the daily or monthly cap amounts. This option would benefit suburban commuters who travel longer distances because they would have certainty about the maximum amount they would pay over a defined time period. 

A graphic showing how distance based fares are charged.

Public Engagement - 2018

There were opportunities for the public and stakeholders to share their perspectives and help the City to adjust fare options proposed within Smart Fare.

  1. In July 2018, Edmontonians were invited to provide feedback about how the City sets transit fares, provides discounts and recovers operating costs for transit service through an online survey.
  2. There were eight invitation focus groups that were held in May 2018 with seniors, low income transit users, cash-only users, monthly pass holders, and regional transit users. Key findings from the May workshops include:
    • Pay-As-You-Go and Fare Capping were well-received
    • Distance-based Fares were received favourably when linked to other fare concepts (minimum and maximum fares, Pay-As-You-Go and Fare Capping)
    • Significant public education and change management program will be critical to ensure the success of the Smart Fare program
  3. In June 2018, one focus group was held with clients and staff at the Winnifred Stewart Association, and four in depth interviews were conducted with DATS Advisory Group committee members. The focus of these sessions was to incorporate the perspectives of Edmontonians with physical and/or cognitive challenges (or those who work with them).

Next Steps

Each of the Smart Fare partner communities needs to approve the fare options best suited to their municipality. Edmonton approved its fare approach in November 2019. The Smart Fare system is flexible enough to handle different options in each city.

The Smart Fare system design will be completed in the upcoming months. Then the system will be pilot-tested in fall 2020.

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