Calgary Transit cancels electronic fare system, looks for new tech

File photo of Calgary Transit's Connect electronic fare system. Global News

CALGARY – Calgary Transit announced Tuesday it will be cancelling the CONNECT electronic fare collection system, after five years of technical and reliability issues and $5 million paid to the supplier.

“When I realized that the reliability just wasn’t there—that we were seeing server failures on average 30 in a month—that’s just not right,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi.  “My recommendation to Calgary Transit is just hold back and let’s see how things play out in Vancouver and Toronto and other places. Let’s see how Google Wallet and Apple Pay work out, and then we may come back at this a few years from now.”

Failures included when paid fares weren’t recognized on bus readers.

“For example, a customer might enter the bus…and the reader would have not recognized their fare product,” said Calgary Transit general manager Doug Morgan.

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“There would have been a dispute where they said, ‘I paid online, but the update hasn’t come through.’”

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In 2010, Calgary Transit hired Schneider Electric (formerly called Telvent) to provide the system. By late 2012, technical problems prevented the completion of the project, and Schneider’s contract was cancelled. Calgary Transit said it brought the company back in November 2013 based on information from the company that the system was almost ready and could be implemented quickly.

“We’ve been going through thorough testing with customers and citizens over the last year, and [Schneider has] now come forward and said they are unable to meet the targets in the contract,” said Morgan. “Rather than going forward and releasing a system that won’t be reliable and consistent for customers, we’ve decided to cancel the project.”

Telvent said in a Tuesday statement it was disappointed the city was not moving forward to complete the project.

“When completed, we believe the system would have provided value to the city, its residents and the visitors Calgary hosts each year,” said Telvent spokesperson Tony Good.

Calgary Transit says research will continue to decide the best options moving forward.

“We’re looking at all technologies for fare payment to make it easy for customers,” said Morgan. “It’s changing pretty rapidly with Apple Pay and other payment techniques with your cellphone, so we’re going to monitor those and see how those turn out prior to making any more decisions on new projects.”

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With files from Tony Tighe

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