Victoria transit to move to smartphone fare purchasing

Commuters in Victoria, B.C., might soon be able to use their smart phones to pay for bus fare.

'The payment industry has come a long way in the last few years,' says B.C. Transit spokesperson

B.C. Transit hoping to majorly upgrade the bus fare system of Victoria, B.C. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

Commuters in Victoria, B.C., might soon be able to use their smartphones to pay for bus fare.

Right now, the city's bus system operates on cash or paper tickets, but a $21-million upgrade to the fare system could change that.

Christy Ridout, vice-president of business development for B.C. Transit, said the idea is for transit users to buy their fares on a mobile phone application, then scan their phone when entering the bus — similar to checking in at an airport.

"The payment industry has come a long way in the last few years and I think we're really able to take advantage of some of the innovation that has occurred," said Ridout.

If the smart phone platform is successful, Ridout said the ultimate goal will be moving to fares being paid via debit or credit card, similar to Vancouver's TransLink system.

In Metro Vancouver, TransLink offers reloadable Compass cards. Ridout said Victoria will not be exploring a Compass card option because the infrastructure for such a system is costly.

She said Compass cards require expensive vending machines to load the cards, and a comprehensive database on the back end to avoid fraud.

Ridout noted some riders won't have a smartphone, and she doesn't want this new system to be seen as a barrier to customers. To that end, she said buses will not remove their cash boxes, and cash will always be acceptable when buying fare.

Ridout said B.C. Transit is looking for a company to partner with in the endeavour, and estimates the new technology will come online in late 2019 or early 2020.

With files from All Points West