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Calgary Transit automated pay system at least 4 years away: Doug Morgan

Although Connect Card plans were scrapped over a year ago, Calgary Transit is looking into other automated pay options

Calgary Transit is continuing to look at options for a new automated pay system after ditching Connect Cards.

Metro File Photo

Calgary Transit is continuing to look at options for a new automated pay system after ditching Connect Cards.

Calgary’s still a long way away from an automated pay system for Calgary Transit, a year after the city abandoned their Connect Card contract.

Calgary Transit announced in June 2015 they’d be scrapping the long-awaited Connect Card technology after several hiccups with Schneider Electric, ultimately costing the city $5 million – money they’re still trying to retrieve from the company.

According to a transit spokesperson there’s “nothing new on the legal front.”

But on Wednesday, transit director Doug Morgan said they haven’t stopped looking for a plan B.

“There’s been some new developments in Philadelphia that we’re interested in – a more tap-and-pay, Mastercard-type operation,” Morgan said. “We’ve watched carefully both Toronto and Vancouver at the cost of those systems, so we’re very sensitive to pick the right one, especially as technology is tipping over to the ‘pay-with-your-cellphone route.”

Morgan noted once a suitable, reliable system is pinpointed and a budget approved, council would be looking at a two- to four-year timeline for implementation.

Coun. Jim Stevenson, who was curious about the card’s status, wanted to hear about a solution sooner.

“That’s too bad that we’re talking that much in the future before we get this,” said Stevenson. “Swipe cards would give us so much more flexibility to help the low-income people with a single pass.”

Morgan agreed about the flexibility, but noted the pass needs to “work well.”

“We want that level of service for the customer to be appropriate, and that’s why we want to make sure we proceed carefully,” said Morgan.

Connect was scrapped just one month before it was meant to launch last year. Morgan said there were reliability issues with the project, and after already having terminated the contract in 2012 and reviving it in 2013 under renewed promises it would go off without a hitch for summer 2015; it was the final straw.

Nenshi echoed those concerns in 2015, saying similar systems, like the Presto Card, was costing other municipalities over $700 million – and he’d rather “build an LRT with that.”

"We've seen these problems really appear everywhere... I've been concerned for some years that this project wasn't going anywhere and at this point when I realize the reliability just wasn't there, that we're seeing service failures on average 30 in a month, that's just not right," Nenshi said.

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