Officials with the City of Edmonton and two municipalities released details on plans to roll out a new system for transit users to pay their fares in the future.

The changes, dubbed the Regional Smart Fare/Smart Bus project, will include the implementation of an electronic fare payment system for transit users in Edmonton, St. Albert and Strathcona County.

For the Smart Fare program, the city said the technology is similar to the way a bank card is used. It is an account-based “tap and go” system, so details on credit for an account will stay online, if a transit user loses their card; the account holder can replace it without losing their account credit.

Officials said the changes will provide added flexibility to transit users.

“It’s kind of like a reverse monthly pass,” Smart Fare manager Gary Googins said Tuesday. “With a monthly pass, you pay the full price up front and have unlimited trips.

“But let’s say in the middle of the month, you go on vacation, you fall ill…now you’ve invested in something you don’t need anymore. With fare capping, you pay as you go until you reach those maximums.”

In St. Albert and Strathcona County, the program would include adding Smart Bus infrastructure – the system is already in place in Edmonton.

Funding for the program came from GreenTRIP funds, approved by the Alberta Government in 2015, Edmonton, St. Albert and Strathcona County are all supplying funds as well – the project has a capital budget of $51.6 million.

Officials have selected a program manager (LTK Engineering Services, retained in spring, 2016), and a contractor (Vix Technology, contracted in the summer of 2017), for the project. The City of Edmonton said Vix Technology has been contracted to design and build the system over three years. The company will then be responsible for operating and maintaining the system for 12 years.

It’s believed the system will be designed by June 2018, with pilot testing underway in the fall of 2019. The system is expected to be completed and deployed in 2020.

Officials said the system will be used on buses, the LRT, and DATS buses throughout the three municipalities.