Nova Scotia

Mobile app payment for Halifax Transit could be months away

Regional council voted Tuesday to award Masabi, a U.K.-based fare collection service, to deliver the new payment option. The ability to pay for transit via an app could be up and running in four months.

Regional council voted to award U.K. company with delivering the new system

Coun. Waye Mason said he is in favour of moving to the app-based payment system, but said he had concerns about people who don't have smartphones being able to use transit. (Robert Short/CBC)

Halifax Transit could be months away from having a mobile app payment option to pay for a bus or ferry ride.

On Tuesday, regional council voted unanimously in favour of awarding U.K.-based service fare collector Masabi with delivering the service to buses and ferries.

"This is a great day. This is something we've all wanted to see for some time," said Coun. Waye Mason.

Marc Santilli, Halifax Transit's manager of technical services, told regional council the app payment could be in place in four months or sooner.

"Our goal is to get this in place as quick as possible. Realistically, I think it'll be at least a couple of months, but we will push as quick as we can," Santilli said.

Debit and credit tap option coming

The first phase of implementation will allow a transit user to purchase a ticket or pass on the app. When they want to use it, they will activate it and display it on the screen and show the driver, the same way they would a paper transfer.

The next step will be onboard validators — a device that would scan the app . Santilli said that's about nine months after the first phase.

Santilli said after that, the next move will be to open payment with tap on debit or credit cards. He said Halifax Transit is also considering reloadable plastic cards. He said the reloadable plastic cards may not be necessary if enough people download the app.

"Debit or credit tap to pay might be a more ideal option for us to pursue as it would negate the need for a lot of the infrastructure needed for smart cards," Santilli said, adding reloadable plastic cards would require vending machines and infrastructure where people would need to top them up.

Concern raised for vulnerable population

City council originally approved the plan to move to a mobile app in July 2020, with a goal of going cashless by 2025.

At the time, several councillors expressed concern over how people who don't have smartphones or use debit and credit cards would access transit.

Mason echoed those concerns Tuesday, saying paper tickets made it so that fares were accessible to everyone. He asked staff to come up with solutions.

"But this is still a great first step and I'm really happy it's here," Mason said.

According to the staff report, the app and onboard validators will cost the municipality $1,304,106 and maintenance and support services at a total value over five years of $243,936

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anjuli Patil

Reporter

Anjuli Patil is a reporter and occasional video journalist with CBC Nova Scotia's digital team.

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