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Smart Fare is an account-based electronic fare payment system that allows municipalities to consider a range of progressive fare options to improve the transit experience for many customers. Possible benefits include no need for paper transfers or upfront payment for monthly/annual transit passes. The options being considered as a group to replace the current fare options are described below. They still need to be finalized and approved by Edmonton City Council.

“Pay-As-You-Go” (PAYG) - This option allows customers to pay one trip at a time rather than needing a monthly/annual transit pass. If used together with fare capping, the customer would pay for each trip when it is made, up to the fare cap for the daily, weekly or monthly period. The PAYG option also includes 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 could be placed on daily, weekly and/or monthly periods. This benefits frequent transit users. Different fare caps can be set for seniors, youths, and low income individuals in support of the City’s 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. This is of particular benefit to riders with limited economic means.

Fare Cap Image

Distance Based Fares - With this approach, the fare paid for each trip could be charged based on the number of kilometres travelled. The distance would be 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 could pay less for their trip. Customers also would not pay more than the daily, weekly, or monthly cap amounts. This option also 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. 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 2020, with full regional roll out planned for later that year.

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