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 new fares options under review for Edmonton were developed in response to recommendations from the Transit Strategy, which was created through extensive public engagement. The four 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.
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 inclusivity 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.
“Pay-As-You-Go” (PAYG)” - This options 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 bankcard or using mobile wallets such as Apple Pay and Google Pay
Distance Based Fares - With this approach, the fare paid for each trip could be charged based on the the number of kilometers 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.
Best Fare - customers could be automatically charged whichever fare provides the best value to them based on their travel patterns/options. This would be of particular benefit to occasional riders and visitors.
The next phase of Smart Fare development requires that the partners Edmonton, St. Albert and Strathcona County each select their preferred fare options by early summer 2018. Each of the City Councils needs to approve the fare options best suited to their municipality and the Smart Fare system is flexible enough to handle different options in each city.
The Smart Fare system design will be completed in 2018. Then the system will be pilot tested in fall 2019, with full regional rollout planned for 2020.