Smart Fare

Smart Fare is an account-based electronic fare payment system that will make paying for transit easier and more convenient in the Edmonton region. Transit users in Edmonton, St. Albert, Strathcona County, Fort Saskatchewan, Leduc, Spruce Grove and Beaumont will all benefit from the same payment system. The tap on/off fare payment system will be introduced region-wide in phases, starting with pilot testing. The test results will determine when the system is made available to a wider range of customers.

Pilot testing

Pilot testing is being completed in phases with Phase 1 starting Fall 2021. This pilot will be conducted in Edmonton and the greater regional area including St. Albert, Strathcona, Spruce Grove, Leduc and Beaumont.

The system will be open for:

  • Adult fare users
  • U-Pass students
  • Select public and catholic schools, and
  • Transit staff across the region.

Phase 2 will launch in 2022 and include discounted fares, such as the Ride Transit Program, Seniors Annual Pass, Everyone Rides, etc.

Starting this fall, the identified groups will be able to purchase a reloadable smart card (from large retail networks or at Smart Fare Vending Machines throughout the transit network), load money onto that card, and then tap on/tap off as they ride our system.

How will Smart Fare work?

Customers will be able to use a Smart Fare card to tap on/off transit and pay a flat fee for their trip. Customers will be able take advantage of fare capping up to a daily or monthly maximum amount. Funds loading the Smart Fare account will be available immediately. If customers lose their Smart Fare card, they can replace it by transferring their balance to a new card.

The advantage of using a smart card is that a rider’s trip in Edmonton will cost $3 and, as long as riders “tap off” within the 90-minute travel window, the fare will count toward a monthly cap. For example. in Phase 1, a $100 monthly cap for an Adult; or in Phase 2, for example, a $35 monthly cap for Ride Transit Program low-income tier 1.

After a rider reaches their monthly cap, they will ride for free for the remainder of the month. This incentive encourages riders to purchase and use a smart card, and rewards frequent transit riders. 

Smart Fare Advantages

The advantage of using a smart card is that a rider’s trip in Edmonton will cost $3.00 and, as long as riders “tap off” within the 90-minute travel window, the fare will count toward their monthly cap (e.g. in Phase 1, a $100 monthly cap for an Adult; or in Phase 2, for example, a $35 monthly cap for Ride Transit Program low-income tier 1). After a rider reaches their monthly cap, they will ride for free for the remainder of the month.

This incentive encourages riders to purchase and use a smart card, and rewards frequent transit riders.

Even after Smart Fare launches, if a rider boards a bus and deposits cash into the fare box (i.e. they do not have a smart card, or a smart ticket), the Transit Operator will still provide the rider with a paper transfer (same as today), as proof of payment, in case an enforcement officer asks to see payment. 

New Transit Fare Options 

Smart Fare also allows municipalities to consider a range of progressive fare options to make transit more affordable for many customers.

“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 to take advantage of 'open payment' using their credit card, debit card or smart mobile devices to tap on/off transit in the seven participating municipalities

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

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.

Distance based fares

Resources

City of Edmonton: Smart Fare Project