Calgary Transit shopping for mobile ticketing system

Once launched, customers will be able to pay fares through a smartphone app

Calgary Transit is now actively shopping for a system that will allow customers to pay their fare through a smartphone app. (Wikimedia Commons / TheCanadianWikier)

Frantically trying to purchase a ticket as the CTrain approaches could become a thing of the past as Calgary Transit takes the next step towards a mobile ticketing system.

The city posted a request for proposals (RFP) on its website at the end of August, and is holding an information session for potential bidders on Friday.

According to the RFP, Calgary wants to provide passengers with the ability to buy their transit fare “products” through a mobile application.

That’s right, there would be an app for that.

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According to the RFP, the city wants a program that’s account-based to “strengthen relationship with customers” as well as something that has a secure system.

The RFP also asks bidders to develop a system that could integrate with other “city-approved” transit providers.

“It’s important that the proposed solution can integrate with other local transportation service providers to make the process of requesting and paying for transit services seamless and simple,” reads the RFP.

Chris Jordan, manager of service design at Calgary Transit, said they want the app to be able to adapt beyond Calgary Transit’s current offerings.

“(Things) like bike share, car sharing, and regional transit services – this is the long term vision for how this mobile ticking solution would function,” said Jordan.

But that’s further in the future, and for now Calgary Transit plans to keep it simple.

“Our immediate concern is to just make it more convenient for Calgarians to pay for transit,” he said.

The RFP also hints at another change that could be in Calgary Transit’s long term future: barcodes on tickets.

“We do envision the evolution retaining our paper products but making it more convenient for the electronic validation of those products,” he said.

Jordan said that technology could allow for zone-based fares, or different fares for different destinations.

For now, Calgary Transit relies on the honour system. There are no turnstiles or gates, but passengers do have to produce a valid ticket when asked by a transit peace officer or face a fine of $250.

According to Jordan, that honour system still results in low levels of fare-evasion, as long as peace officers are doing routine checks.

“That has helped us avoid the high capital cost of putting barriers around the entire system. Which would be particularly challenging in Calgary’s downtown environment,” he said.

There’s no word on how soon a mobile ticketing system could be launched in Calgary. The RFP offers bidders a three-year contract with the option for four additional one-year terms.

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