Ottawa's transit commission has unanimously approved the $34-million new tap-and-go smart card fare system for OC Transpo.

The general public will be able to obtain a card for free online at prestocard.ca on May 18. The card will then be available in various locations across the city, including some libraries, on May 27.

Eco-Pass holders will have to wait until August at the earliest to exchange their pass for a Presto card.

The card system was supposed to launch on Canada Day of last year but was delayed because of technical glitches, which OC Transpo now says have been fixed.

Transit commision chair Diane Deans admits there were some lessons to be learned in the roll-out of the new system.

"I've certainly learned that the smart card technology is much more complex than we originally anticipated that it's better to roll it out over time than overnight," she said.

"I think that it will be a great card for our customers, I think our customers are enthusiastic about it. And if we had it to do over again I think we would probably have given ourselves a lot more time at the front end, and not created such great expectations," said Deans.

After a year of technical issues, the card is now operating at 99 per cent efficiency, according to transit officials. About 13,000 free cards have already been distributed for testing.

Cash and ticket fares are set to rise in July, which transit officials hope will encourage people who pay by those means to switch to the smart cards. OC Transpo could increase revenue streams by getting rid of tickets.

The card will eventually be interchangeable with public transit systems in the Toronto area. The card can be used on the STO in Gatineau, but there will be restrictions. It is also not operable on Para-Transpo.

"This is about customer service. We got into all of this to improve the customer experience and make it a lot easier for our customers," said Deans.