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BC Transit rolls out $23.2M electronic fare system

Nanaimo and other BC transit regions will adopt the fare system in the future

Gone are the days of searching through your couch cushions to find the exact change to ride the bus.

BC Transit is launching a new electronic fare system with the mobile app Umo (“you-mo”) across Greater Victoria starting today (Aug. 23).

The mobile app introducing contactless payment methods will also launch a reloadable Umo card. On the Umo app it will offer riders the option to buy a monthly pass, a day pass and the regular fare to ride the bus. When travelling, riders open their app to display a QR code that serves as their fare and present it to a new onboard digital validator.

Along with managing bus fare, the app provides riders with additional tools to help them plan their trip, including real-time information, maps and alerts that will inform them when they’re nearing their stop while travelling. Additionally, the Umo app will remind riders when their fare product is running low on funds or nearing its expiration date.

“I am so excited to take this giant leap to achieving our goal of making BC Transit your best transportation solution,” said BC Transit’s Christy Ridout. “We heard our riders when they asked for a new way to pay their fare and we are so pleased to provide them with the innovative Umo solution … With that said, we recognize innovation means changes to habits, and BC Transit is committed to supporting our riders while they make this transition.”

Following Umo’s launch in Greater Victoria, it’s scheduled to be implemented in 29 other transit systems in B.C. In order, these include Cowichan Valley, Nanaimo, Comox Valley, Campbell River, Port Alberni, Powell River, Squamish, Chilliwack, Kamloops, Kelowna, Cranbrook, Prince George, Whistler, and others. Umo has been used in 69 other regions across North America, but Victoria is the first Canadian location.

If riders prefer to use the Umo reloadable card rather than the app, they can pick it up for free from a London Drugs or a number of different BC Transit vendors. Similarly to the app, riders will tap their card at the validator to when boarding the bus. In about a year’s time, BC Transit plans to provincially enable onboard payments with debit and credit cards. According to Ridout, once the card payment options are in use it “will then provide the opportunity for passengers to use one debit or credit card to tap from TransLink, BC Ferries, and BC Transit, improving integration.”

Eventually replacing BC Transit’s monthly passes, Umo is introducing the 30-Day Pass. This new pass will provide riders with the same convenience of having an unlimited long-term fare product, but introduces the flexibility of not having to wait until the start of a calendar month to use it.

Along with the 30-Day Pass, a Cash Balance is being added as a payment option for riders. The Cash Balance is a stored dollar amount a rider draws from as additional trips are taken and will eventually replace paper tickets. There are no exact dates for the removal of monthly passes and tickets and BC Transit plans to provide riders several months to transition to a new Umo payment method. Although more digital payment options are available, cash will continue to be accepted for riders who prefer to use it.

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About the Author: Ella Matte

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