THE implementation of an electronic fare system for Winnipeg Transit will be phased in over the course of next year.
Transit director David Wardrop said Tuesday the use of the smart-card pass system will be slowly phased in over the course of 2014 to avoid any potential problems that might be caused by the introduction of a new system.
"The idea is to limit the amount of difficulty we may encounter and... manage the distribution of what could be as many as 250,000 cards," Wardrop said.
The digital fare system was first proposed in 2003. Costing almost $18 million, it was to be in place this fall but delays pushed it back.
Transit will be phasing out paper tickets and passes. In their place, transit riders will have to buy a swipe card, dubbed the Transit Smart Card, where riders can purchase a variety of fare options.
The change is meant to encourage ridership and reduce costs. "Individual riders and users can choose their (Transit fare) products as suits their travel needs and patterns," Wardrop said.
To encourage riders to purchase the smart cards, Transit is asking for approval to offer incentives, including discounts, contests and draws.
Wardrop said the total cost of the incentive program will be $10,000.
The $5 purchase price of the cards will be initially refunded if used within the first 90 days, Wardrop said.
The new digital fare boxes have been installed on all transit buses and the smart cards will be ready for distribution by the end of this year.
In addition to the smart card, riders will still be able to pay with coins. Reusable coin tokens, sold in bulk to social service agencies and schools, will also be accepted in lieu of payment.
Wardrop said Transit will run a small-scale pilot program with the smart cards before the end of the year, adding the cards will then be rolled out in stages, most likely starting with senior passes and discount fares.
Wardrop told the public works committee monthly passes and 28-day passes will be purchase options available on a smart card, but he expects the monthly passes to fall out of favour.
Transit said passes of shorter duration should be popular with tourists.
While bus tickets and passes were available for purchase from a variety of retailers across the city, Wardrop said smart cards will only be available for purchase from Shoppers Drug Mart and 7-Eleven stores and some select retailers in locations not served by those two firms.
However, Wardrop said the riders will be able to reload the cards online and over the phone.
Wardrop said Transit is proposing annual fare increases for single rides will automatically increase five cents, unless council overrides the increase.
Lost smart cards will cost $5 to replace, Wardrop said, but the remaining unused value of the cards will not be lost if riders have them registered, he said.
Wardrop said paper tickets will continue to be sold until the smart cards are introduced, adding tickets will be accepted even when they are no longer sold.