Winnipeg Transit officials admit there are no plans to determine if the problem-plagued digital fare system has been worth the expense.
At a meeting of council’s finance committee Tuesday, Transit officials said there continue to be problems with the digital fare-card system, known as Peggo, but they hope to have them resolved before the end of the year.
Kirk Cumming, Transit’s manager of information systems, said that when Transit purchased the $17.4-million system in 2011, there was no plan to review its operation to determine whether it was money well spent, adding there are still no plans to conduct such a review.
"The review in terms of value for money was not part of the planning process for this project," Cumming told the committee.
In response to questions from Coun. Shawn Nason, Cumming said only two other cities in North America — Jacksonville, Fla., and Tucson, Ariz. — had purchased the identical fare-card system.
"I’m concerned we’re not realizing value for money," Nason (Transcona) said.
"I’m concerned that we’re not spending money the way we should be as a community."
Winnipeg Transit launched its SmartCard fare system, dubbed Peggo, in July 2016, following several years of delay. The initiative allows riders to pay for a transit ride simply by tapping a pre-purchased card on the bus-fare box.
Fare boxes failing to correctly recognize balances on individual cards and long delays in registering reloaded amounts on users’ cards are just two of the recurring problems Winnipeggers have experienced.
Cumming said new technology has made Peggo appear outdated — fare boxes unable to handle direct debit card transactions, for example — have contributed to riders’ dissatisfaction with the system.
"This technology was chosen in 2011. Things have changed since that time. The landscape of what products people are looking at, what people’s expectations are, have changed," he said. "Our goal is to finish this product and start looking at what’s next on the horizon in terms of customer expectations."
A report Cumming prepared for the committee noted that the technology used to load rider cards at retail outlets is already outdated and needs to be replaced.
The report says the supplier, Garival, has agreed to provide 25 per cent of the new tablet-based devices.
Cumming said that despite the ongoing problems, the system is providing riders with a range of payment options that didn’t exist before, adding customer experience is expected to improve once the technology is actually working as it should.
Transit director Greg Ewankiw told the committee there will always be issues related to the Peggo card and other aspects of the system, describing them as "nuances" that need to be dealt with as they occur.
Ewankiw said the only measure of customer satisfaction with the Peggo system is done by the monitoring of complaints made by Transit drivers.
Ewankiw said Transit isn’t prepared to gauge customer satisfaction until Transit officials are satisfied all the problems with the system have been resolved.
Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.
Updated on Wednesday, November 28, 2018 at 9:43 AM CST: Final