Whitehorse mulls upgrades to transit fare collection

Whitehorse’s transit department is considering upgrading the way people pay to take the bus.

Whitehorse’s transit department is considering upgrading the way people pay to take the bus.

The department has put out a request for information looking for companies willing to upgrade the fleet of 15 buses to an electronic fare system.

“That’s what we’re asking for now, who’s out there? Who’s even able to do the North? What kind of company do they have and what can they offer us?” said transit manager Cheri Malo.

She’s quick to point out that any actual changes would be a long way down the road. This is just to gather information and see what’s available. If potential changes appear too expensive the idea would end right there, before city council got involved at all, she said.

Anyone who has taken transit elsewhere in the country may have seen fare systems more advanced than the boxes for exact change or tickets that currently exist in Whitehorse.

Other cities offer electronic systems that will spit out exact change, for example, or rechargable cards that can be used for multiple trips.

“It really helps out the community, including all our citizens, to have have very easy access to being able to pay on the bus in any way, shape or form they want to,” Malo said.

“It will really help the drivers out not having to handle cash and all the other things.”

The department is looking for information on an electronic system that would “ensure a high level fare revenue security through improved accountability and tracking of revenues and ridership,” according to a request for information issued by the city last week.

It’s also interested in replacing the current paper tear-off transfers/fare receipts with on-demand real-time printing of receipts. It’s also exploring ways to track statistics including passenger counts, time-of-day ridership, transfers and the way passengers pay fares.

Having to buy tickets or a pass can be a barrier to people taking the bus, Malo said.

“It’s a barrier. But if you go online and put it on your smartphone instantaneously, it’s one less barrier.”

As for what the city’s system could look like, it’s too early to say Malo said. Right now there is no implementation date in mind.

The request for information is set to close in about two weeks.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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