On-demand bus fare? There's an app for that

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On-demand bus fare? There's an app for that

Moncton city council is entering into a one-year pilot project with HotSpot Parking Inc., to make the payment of bus fare easier, hoping to lure more riders onto Codiac Transpo buses.

HotSpot has created an app that is downloadable on smartphones, and is already used by some people to pay for parking in Charlottetown, Saint John, Fredericton and Moncton.

Phillip Curley, HotSpot's chief executive officer, said he was approached by Moncton's transportation co-ordinator about expanding the parking app into transit fares.

"We thought if we're going to do it for one, we'll have to do it for all, so we're really thinking all of Atlantic Canada," he said.

It costs $2 a month and the app can be used for both parking and bus fares.

"Whenever you board the bus, you press 'board the bus' [on the phone] and it creates a moving image for the bus driver," Curley said. 

"Very similar to how you would show a proof of purchase through a bus pass today."

Angela Allain, manager of Codiac Transpo, describes the 12-month pilot project as cutting edge. 

With the app she said riders can cut out the inconvenience of searching for exact change, or of having to go to a store to buy a pass.

"What we're trying to do here is to get people to try transit or take it more often."

The city will not pay HotSpot for bringing the service to Moncton, though Allain noted the city will lose 2.5 per cent of fees collected through the app to credit card companies. She hopes the loss is offset by new customers taking the bus.

She is also looking forward to seeing the data that will be collected through the app, which the city doesn't currently have access to.

"Today, we do not have technology in our fare box that actually scans a pass or [analyzes] how many times a pass is used in a month for example … this will."

Allain said the city will only collect travel data, not personal information about users. She hopes to get a better sense of where people are going, and which routes need to be adjusted.

The app also comes with a trip planner. Curley said it tracks buses and shows the best way to get to a destination. It's being tested by Codiac Transpo drivers to work out any issues.

"Our focus is all about customer services and making sure they're happy," he said. 

The city hopes to have drivers trained and the app ready to go before the summer.