Edmonton council is looking at the possibility of new payments cards for transit users, but the amount it would save the city is being challenged by a citizen advisory board.

The use of smart fare cards is being discussed at the Transportation Committee meeting on Wednesday.

The city's Director of DATS and Technology Services Lorna Stewart explains that the cards are "like a coffee card that you can load up, even online. or at the vending machines at the LRT, and then use it to pay for rides."

'We do believe that our estimates of reduced fare evasion are conservative and achievable.' - Lorna Stewart, City of Edmonton director of DATS and Technology Services

Edmonton Transit Service officials estimate the new fare technology will save $12.5 million from its operating budget over 10 years.

"We do believe that our estimates of reduced fare evasion are conservative and achievable," said Stewart.

But a report by the Edmonton Transit System Advisory Board claims that it could cost an additional $13 million over 10 years.

The board points to Vancouver where the switch to smart fares has been bogged down by delays, cost overruns and even people still finding a  way to avoid paying transit fares.

But Mayor Don Iveson said it won't change the direction the city is taking.

"There's all kinds of non-financial value in having the smart card as well," he said. "I still think there's an economic business case for it."

Up and running by 2015

ETS officials hope to install equipment by 2015 that would allow for smart fare cards to be used.

"We really need to get on with this," Stewart said. "People really want transit to be this modern service that's convenient for them."

For transit passenger Geoff Anderson, an electronic card to pay for his bus fare makes sense.

"Sounds like a pretty good idea," he said. "If you're using the bus everyday, it's probably cheaper than buying bus tickets every day,or even a bus pass."