News / Winnipeg

Peggo-ing well: Fare payment roll-out successful so far

Relatively few complaints and a roll-out the city is proud of may lead to paper passes and tickets being discontinued in early 2017.

A Winnipeg Transit rider carefully taps her Peggo card, Monday. Some users report difficulty hitting the right spot, but bus drivers can help them get it right after which it's reportedly smooth-cruising.

Braeden Jones/ Metro

A Winnipeg Transit rider carefully taps her Peggo card, Monday. Some users report difficulty hitting the right spot, but bus drivers can help them get it right after which it's reportedly smooth-cruising.

Although fickle electronic fare systems have been large headaches for other cities, Winnipeg Transit has had relatively few problems with its new payment cards.

“We are quite proud of the fact our system has been able to roll out fairly smoothly,” said transit information supervisor Jonathon Borland.

Calgary Transit cancelled a beleaguered electronic fare collection card in 2015 amidst reliability issues, and Toronto’s transit agency recently conceded too many of its payment terminals are failing.

But for Winnipeg, since beginning its staggered launch of the Peggo card in July, the city has sold 68,381 cards and received just over 700 complaints from the public.

“Those could be anything from, ‘my card wasn’t reading,’ to, ‘I had an issue at a retail sales agent,’” Borland explained, adding most issues have to do with the learning curve, and none were unexpected.

Borland said he did focus-group testing before the launch that helped Winnipeg Transit anticipate issues.

Some people have difficulty tapping the right place on the farebox with their card, but operators help with that.

Others have a hard time registering, so the city put out videos and pamphlets to walk them through it.

And sometimes there is difficulty loading cards at retail sales agents, which the staggered roll-out—first to seniors in July and then to the general public and students after that—was meant to help with so everyone was acquainted with the tech slowly.

“We are noticing the number of those issues going down,” Borland said. “We’ve tried to be as diligent as possible.”

One glitch last week caused connection errors between the Peggo site and payment site, but it’s since been resolved and customers have been refunded.

Joseph Kornelsen, a spokesperson for citizen transit lobbying group Functional Transit Winnipeg, said “there’s nothing really that has emerged that was unexpected” with the Peggo roll-out.

He said the tap can be slower than dropping coins, but he knew it would be, the cards aren’t transferrable, which is a minor inconvenience, and cards loaded online don’t have funds available immediately.

“We don’t necessarily think there’s anything that’s going to drive us (transit users) crazy,” he said after speaking with some of the group’s members.

“One of the things that’s important for our group is if there are more refined statistics coming out of this… we’d like that to be available for the public,” he said. “A group like us could use those to become better advocates for transit.”

Borland said the smooth roll-out has inspired enough confidence that paper tickets and passes will be phased out sooner rather than later, something the city was previously unsure of.

“Most likely in 2017 you’ll see paper passes and tickets will be phased out,” Borland said.

He explained his department monitored the launch closely for issues they “weren’t able to catch” in testing, and it’s so far, so good.

“A little later in the fall… After the snow flies, (we’ll) evaluate where we are with the uptake and then make an announcement about when paper tickets and passes would be discontinued for sale.”

After the tickets and passes are discontinued, there will be a grace period of a few months for people to use up their existing paper products before the switch to Peggo is mandatory.

“We’ll be sure we do a big public announcement,” Borland said.

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