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Smart cards could soon be in use on city buses

Plan is part of major overhaul of Sudbury Transit
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The city's ongoing overhaul of Greater Sudbury Transit is continuing with a plan to offer reloadable smart cards to users to replace the swipe passes currently in use. (File)

The city's ongoing overhaul of Greater Sudbury Transit is rolling on with a plan to offer reloadable smart cards to users to replace the swipe passes currently in use.

A report headed to city council Sept. 25 says the switch costs $600,000 and will be funded through grants from the federal Public Transit Infrastructure Fund. 

“Contactless smart card technology is growing in popularity as it delivers improved ease of use, security and reliability versus the traditional magnetic stripe tickets or cards currently used by Greater Sudbury Transit,” the report says. 

“The use of contactless smart card technology, along with an easy to understand and well balanced fare structure, increases a transit customer’s confidence in the system and provides a convenient payment option. This in turn increases ridership.”

Passengers can load up the cards themselves, and then hold them up to a scanner on the bus as they board. Unlike the paper swipes now in use, the cards read quickly and reliably.

The system removes the need to provide proof to get rider discounts, the report says, since all the cards look the same. They also reduce the chances of drivers and passengers arguing over the validity of their fare.  

“If lost or stolen, registered smart cards can be replaced and the value remaining loaded on the replacement card,” the report says. 

“Annual operating costs savings can be realized due to the elimination of printing and distribution of paper media, commissions paid to sell fare media, and fare box maintenance.”

The cards can be used on all types of vehicles, including conventional and specialized buses or taxis and boarding times are reduced, “which improves on time performance of the service.”

The cards are part of a package of reforms aimed at boosting ridership at transit, which has been flat or declining in recent years. The city has also doubled security hours at the downtown transit terminal, and is conducting a major review of bus routes with an eye toward making them more in line with the needs of riders.