Beginning next Monday, adult transit riders in Edmonton and the surrounding region will be able to use a smart fare card called Arc instead of coins, paper tickets or passes.
Users can load as little as $4 or as much as $500 on their Arc cards. The credit card-sized plastic cards are used to tap on and tap off when entering and exiting buses and LRT stations.
"This means transit riders will be able to use an Arc card to pay their fare without needing to carry exact change or paper tickets or passes," Edmonton Transit Service branch manager Carrie Hotton-MacDonald said at a news conference Tuesday.
The website myarc.ca is now live and operational. It explains that riders need to tap on and off to be charged the correct fare, and that forgetting to tap on could lead to a fine for fare evasion.
There are a number of ways to obtain a card using cash, credit or debit cards.
"Riders can sign up, check their balance or add money to their Arc accounts online, by phone, at Arc fare vending machines or at our in-person service centres," Hotton-MacDonald said.
Adult transit riders in St. Albert, Spruce Grove, Strathcona County and Beaumont will also be able to use the Arc system.
Leduc and Fort Saskatchewan will be added in 2023.
Arc will also roll out to other fare groups next year including seniors, youth, DATS riders and those who currently use the low-income transit pass.
The Arc card debuted last fall with testing by U-Pass post-secondary students and pilot participants, paving the way for broader access this month.
Former Edmonton mayor Don Iveson promised the smart card program in 2014. He hoped to have it operational by 2016. Since then, the project has encountered numerous delays.
Hotton-MacDonald said part of the holdup was due to complexity caused by the regional nature of the program.
"We're the first in Canada to offer regional fare capping, which allows riders to pay a per-ride price until they reach a daily or a monthly cap," she said.
"So for example in Edmonton, the daily cap is $10.25 and the monthly cap is $100. Once the cap is reached, the rider rides for free for the rest of the day or month across the region."
Starting Monday, Arc cards will be handed out to riders at various transit centres and LRT stations, while supplies last.