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Mobile Fare Payment & TVM Replacement

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Metro has a good article on the recommendation coming to committee on Wednesday: http://www.metronews.ca/news/calgary/2017/03/10/calgary-transit-considers-mobile-payment-system.html

I've gone into the documents and here is my summary of what is being proposed:

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A full electronic fare payment system remains a long-term goal for Calgary Transit; however, given the current high costs, long implementation timelines and significant risks due to rapid technology changes, proceeding to this type of system is not currently in The City’s best interest. The proposed investments will provide Calgary Transit and its customers with the greatest value while making progress towards long-term advanced fare payment goals.

 

The current [fare payment] system is very reliable, has low overhead costs and achieves a high satisfaction rating (81% satisfied or very satisfied). However, the current system requires customers to either carry exact change or make a separate journey to purchase tickets and monthly passes from a vendor.

The system also does not enable the introduction of more flexible fare options (weekly pass, low income single fares, etc) or allow for distance or zone-based fares. As well, electronic payment options offered by other businesses are increasing the demand for Calgary Transit to update its payment system.

In addition, the current CTrain ticket vending machines are reaching the end of their life cycle and need to be replaced:

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Calgary Transit provides TVMs on all LRT station platforms. There are currently 230 TVMs in service, which enable customers to purchase single ride or day pass fares using cash, credit or debit cards. Since 2011, the TVMs have undergone a number of upgrades to add payment by credit and debit cards, purchase of multiple rides and most recently, tap and go capability. The tap and go capability allows for contactless credit cards and smart phone payment (Apple Pay) to be used to conveniently pay for fare products at the TVM.

In 2016, the TVMs handled 6.3 million customer transactions valued at $19.4 million. However, the current TVM technology is 14 years old and critical components have reached the end of their life. Parts are difficult to obtain and there are software compatibility and reliability issues. After 2018, the TVM system will no longer be compliant with financial standards for accepting and processing non-cash payments. The cost of replacing the current TVM system is estimated at $15 million.

 

As such, there are three options. To briefly summarize them, they are:

1: replace all TVMs and introduce a mobile app payment system with scanners. The app payment system can be introduced within 1 year, is estimated to cost $5.5 million, is suggested to be used initially only for single ride fares and potentially CT Access customers, and can integrate with a future EFC (smart card) system.

2: replace all TVMs and introduce a full EFC system. This option would fulfill "all of Calgary Transit's goals for a new fare payment system", but would take approximately 4 years and $40-$60 million to implement, and "there is currently high uncertainty in the cost-effectiveness, reliability and lifespan of these systems given the rapid changes in technology that are taking place."

3: replace all TVMs, maintain the paper-based fare system, and defer the implementation of an improved fare system.

#1 is the recommended option.

When using the app, customers would have to have an internet connection to purchase fares, but not to activate the fares or to present the ticket to bus operators or Peace Officers. Some of the choices to visually validate the tickets:

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Tri-band colour on digital ticket – Three colours in a band are placed at the top of the ticket app. Each day a new sequence of colours would load at the top of activated tickets. Enforcement needs to know the daily colour scheme.
Countdown timer – When a ticket is activated, a countdown timer is shown to indicate the remaining amount of valid time for the ticket.
Delayed timer – The countdown timer has a delayed start to prevent customers from only activating tickets when a Peace Officer board a vehicle to verify proof of payment. For example, if the countdown timer is delayed by 5 minutes, a Peace Officer will know if the Customer activated the ticket only when he/she boarded the train.
QR Code / 2D Barcode – This requires additional investment in hardware but supports real-time authorizations and electronic validation of fare product. This technology is as robust from a security perspective as traditional a account-based electronic fare collection system. 

The recommended option specifically mentions scanners/validators so presumably at least the last option will be incorporated. I'm not sure if they mean having validators on buses, or just giving them to Peace Officers.

The proposed timeline, subject to funding, would have the mobile ticketing app functional in Q4 of this year, and new TVMs beginning to be deployed in Q4 2018.

http://agendaminutes.calgary.ca/sirepub/agdocs.aspx?doctype=agenda&itemid=48467

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Speaking personally now, I really support what they're proposing with the recommended option #1. It's unfortunate the Connect card played out the way it did, but I'm glad to see they've done a lot of research into the available options and I think their argument for not purchasing a full smart card system has a lot of validity.

New TVMs will be a great upgrade and I really look forward to the convenience of the app (particularly it will be nice if they add day passes!)

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I'm very interested in how they will be implementing the mobile app to work with the new TVMs. I have to say that the TVMs are pretty outdated, and I'd like to see some of the same features in the new TVMs like tap payment.

Speaking of the mobile app, I hope the app will have support for the EFC in the future. From experience using other EFCs like Japan's Suica and Pasmo (I used and still have my Pasmo card!), I find it an excellent alternative to paying debit or buying monthly passes. One thing I would like to see in the new EFC is the ability to reload funds through the app. For Pasmo, reloading funds would be done via TVMs or in store (I believe online too, but I'm not too sure). I think the ability to reload funds through your phone and checking you balance would be a nice feature to have before you begin or during your journey, to avoid the moments when you lack money to pay a fare.

In regards to how EFCs would work, I think a zone based system would need to be in place OR the countdown timer. A zone based service makes sense as you would be charged for when you are in a different zone. A timer would be more preferable (in our current proof of payment) system. Peace officers would scan (or tap) your card to see your last payments and when they were purchased. If you didnt pay within the 90 minute timeframe, you'd be either fined or pay the fare through your card (if you were traveling as the timer ran out).

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What is Calgary thinking?

Is there a business case for this app? Clearly, this app is going to be for those who choose to use it. You cannot expect everyone to have a phone capable of supporting this app as not everyone has a cell phone. Will scanners still be able to scan images displayed on cracked screens? It's early and there aren't a lot of details yet, but, I think paper tickets will still have to be sold.
One of the touted advantages of any electronic fare collection system is that it reduces a lot of work associated with the handling of paper fare products. Passes and tickets need to be securely printed, delivered to CT, and then delivered to retailers, all with a tracking system. Upon use of the bus tickets, there's then the handling of the used tickets in the fareboxes and destruction of used/ unsold product.

Will this $5.5 million system reduce these costs enough to justify it's adoption?

What advantages will this mobile ticketing have that justify the expenditure?

Will this feature attract new rides, or retain existing ones?

To me, I see this mobile ticketing app is another half assed attempt (the 3rd one now, disCONNECT being 1 and 2) by CT to do something with electronic fare collection.
While CT says it will be compatible with future EFC, I think that's debatable. as know one knows what that will look like. CT sure the hell aren't going to keep this mobile ticket app for the sake of it when a single vendor would be supplying an entire solution. Trying to tack on the mobile ticketing app to something else sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. And, I would imagine with a new system using RFID, these scanners for the mobile ticketing app used by whomever (enforcement?) will probably not work on a future EFC where different technologies could be used.

At it's simplest, say, a barcode that is displayed on a mobile device and read by a reader (laser), this could be a pretty simple system to install (see the EFC used in Saskatchewan). However, that means there's probably any number of companies that could deliver this mobile ticketing at a reasonable cost. There are fewer companies that could deliver a full EFC solution. That's where I suspect integrating the two would be perhaps a bit challenging and not worth it.

I don't get too why CT wouldn't include bus passes in this mobile ticketing app. Edmonton did test it... a digital bus pass app, but, cancelled it in light of the decision to go for full EFC. http://www.metronews.ca/news/edmonton/2012/02/10/digital-bus-pass-tested.html

I see this $5.5 million as being better used to get a EFC system off the ground. ETS has been working on it for years now, and it does take a long time. They've hired consultants, worked with other local transit operations, rolled out Smart Bus, received funding etc.

Delaying EFC because of "rapid technology changes" is crap. Technology will always be evolving. The fact that CT has tacked on different payment options to the exisitng TVM's is enough of an example to support getting their ass in gear and start now on a EFC system that can accept future upgrades.

The fact that CT is saying that TVMs + EFC is $40-60 million, so, $25-35 million for just EFC suggests to me that that $7-8 million planned for dis-CONNECT was certainly a cheap, half assed attempt. Hell, even the first round of CONNECT apparently grew to $13.5 million makes me think it was underestimated. Lets just say that they ended up with functioning CONNECT for $13.5 million... then CT tacks on mobile ticketing for $5.5 million. That's now $19 million for a system being cobbled together and it is nearly at the low end for a full EFC.

In summary, put the money to better use and do EFC right from the start. No more half assing it.

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I was in Vancouver late last summer and tried out there Compass card. Very slick system seemed to work ok, I especially liked the electronic gates at the Skytrain stations. 

If Calgary Transit is going to look at a new EFC they should also invest money into Ctrain stations with some sort of electronic gate system like Vancouver.

Also, I think it's time for Calgary Transit to dump the free fare zone downtown during rush hour and just have the free service during non-rush and weekends only. So many people live downtown now that it would help with revenue to fund this thing...

Fare evasion is such a problem out here and should be treated more like a crime even though it is nobody really realizes that. 

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What are the stats for Calgary regarding fare evasion? It's generally accepted in Vancouver that the Compass system (both procurement and annual maintenance) has cost way more than what will be recuperated from making the fare evaders pay their share, even over the next several decades. The benefits of the gates are mainly statistical and a deterrent against "undesirables". I've seen evaders push the gates open, so those who are *really* wanting to get in still can. 

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6 minutes ago, TimmyC62 said:

What are the stats for Calgary regarding fare evasion? It's generally accepted in Vancouver that the Compass system (both procurement and annual maintenance) has cost way more than what will be recuperated from making the fare evaders pay their share, even over the next several decades. The benefits of the gates are mainly statistical and a deterrent against "undesirables". I've seen evaders push the gates open, so those who are *really* wanting to get in still can. 

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/lrt-fare-compliance-rates-1.3424031

1.7% according to the latest numbers I could find.

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That's not very much fare evasion. The random ticket checks work, I see them catch and fine a lot of people when doing the checks. Our stations are not designed for fare gates. They've studied eliminating the free fare zone but there's never been a benefit to changing it. 

They haven't been as good at studying fare payment systems; They picked Televent for Connect a second time after the first failed tap system, and it failed to work the second time too. They should have gone with someone else. Why would the same company do anything different?

I think since this current idea is just adding an extra way to pay fares to the existing system, and upgrading the TVM's accordingly, it probably won't change things or fail badly. IT sounds like a simple middle ground that leaves things open for other improvements later. I'll wait and see how it goes. 

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https://newsroom.calgary.ca/my-fare-mobile-ticketing-system/

Quote

Calgary Transit is piloting a new system for mobile ticketing that will allow riders to pay for and validate their transit fare using an app on their smartphones. Testing will take place from late June to late September on four routes in the city.

“Calgary Transit is always looking for ways to improve the customer experience, including making paying for transit easier,” says Chris Jordan, manager of service design for Calgary Transit. “Our goal is to provide a reliable, secure and convenient option for our riders to buy and display their transit fare.”

The app will be tested for a 90-day period on routes

4 - Huntington,
38 - Brentwood/Temple,
149 - Point Trotter, and
150 - 114 Ave. S.E.
Riders who regularly take one or more of these routes are invited to sign up to be a part of the pilot group. The group will be asked to download a test version of the app, set up an account, including payment information, and use the app throughout the 90-day pilot. Their feedback will be used to fine-tune the app and confirm it meets the needs of Calgarians. The deadline to sign up is May 29.

“We’ve selected a system for the My Fare app that has been successful in many other cities, and are pleased to be testing it with our riders,” Jordan says. “This pilot will ensure we are providing the right payment options, in the right way, now and into the future.”

For more information about the pilot visit calgarytransit.com/MyFare

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Buses will be equipped with validators that can instantly scan a bar code created by the app. You’ll be able to use your phone as your ticket, by scanning it when you board your bus or showing it to your driver. 

 

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I've seen something like this in action elsewhere and it worked like a charm. 👍

In Las Vegas, riders download an app, create an account and link it to a credit card. Then they can purchase tickets/passes within the app and scan the QR code upon entry.

In some jurisdictions in the U.K., the scanners can zap a code displayed on a phone *or*  a physical ticket bought aboard a transit vehicle. For the latter, riders get a ticket from the driver (they look like retail receipts) with a QR code printed on it. (I wonder if Calgary would consider something like this for on-board or TVM payment.)

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3 minutes ago, Transit Fan said:

Curious why the went with those four routes in particular.

I would've been happy to help test if this was on any of my normal routes. 😁

 

 

Screenshot_20190522-080850.png

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Yeah, I read that. I don't completely buy it though.

149 and 150 don't exactly scream "service across the city" and "variety of demographic groups" to me. 4 and 38 fit that description a lot better. Just wild speculation on my part but it almost feels like they purposely picked two lower ridership routes, possibly to limit the number of people that would be interested in the pilot.

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Maybe it’s not riders but Transit itself — if they were to test this on, say, Route 3 instead of Route 149/150, I imagine Transit would need to retrofit even more buses with validators during the testing phase. 

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13 hours ago, downbeat said:

Maybe it’s not riders but Transit itself — if they were to test this on, say, Route 3 instead of Route 149/150, I imagine Transit would need to retrofit even more buses with validators during the testing phase. 

Not just that, but if the system shits the bed and causes delays, better on a quiet route vs. a busy route. 

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11 hours ago, M. Parsons said:

Not just that, but if the system shits the bed and causes delays, better on a quiet route vs. a busy route. 

4 and 38 are probably busy enough to satisfy any need to observe the new fare system’s behaviour during peak times.

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