A hand holds a blue and yellow HALIFAX TRANSIT ticket. In the background, blurry, is an old sandstone building. It's sunny.
One of Halifax Transit’s paper tickets is seen in front of Halifax City Hall in a photo illustration. — Photo: Zane Woodford
One of Halifax Transit’s paper tickets is seen in front of Halifax City Hall in a photo illustration. — Photo: Zane Woodford

When a new electronic payment app comes online, Halifax Transit users will be able to purchase one-day, two-day, week-long and 20-ride passes, along with a digital version of the existing 10-pack of tickets.

Halifax Transit staff unveiled the new ticket options in a report to council’s Transportation Standing Committee, which met on Monday.

As the Halifax Examiner reported in July, council awarded a $1.5-million contract for the new mobile payment app to Masabi, a UK-based company.

Transit users will use the app like a transfer or monthly pass, showing the driver their screen when they board the bus or enter the ferry terminal.

After looking at what 35 other municipalities offer residents, outreach and engagement specialist Hannah McIntyre wrote in the report that Halifax Transit conducted an online survey. Using that information, it landed on the recommended options: one-day, two-day, seven-day, 10-ride, and 20-ride passes.

The options represent varying discounts on the cash fare of $2.75. A 10-pack of paper tickets reduces the cost per trip to $2.47, a 10% discount, for example.

The new options are priced as follows: a one-day pass will be $7, which McIntyre broke down to $2.54 per ride based on 2.75 rides in one day; a two-day pass will be $12, $2.40 per ride based on five rides; a seven-day pass will be $23, $2.30 per ride based on 10 rides; a 10-ride pass will be the same as 10 tickets, $24.75, $2.47 a ride; and a 20-ride pass will be $44, $2.20 a ride.

That’s still more expensive than a monthly pass, which works out to $2.06 a ride, based on 40 rides. Patricia Hughes, directing of planning and customer engagement, said that’s by design.

“What we tried to do was line it up so that it never makes sense to buy two single day passes instead of a two-day pass or it doesn’t make sense to do four week-long passes, the monthly pass is cheaper,” Hughes said.

“The more you go in for the bigger discount that you have, or else people wouldn’t buy the longer term products.”

The one-, two-, and seven-day passes allow for unlimited use during those time periods. During Monday’s meeting, Coun. Paul Russell asked staff how transfers will work for the 10- and 20-ride passes.

Marc Santilli, manager of technical services, said the tickets will remain active long enough for the user to get to their destination across multiple transfers.

“The fare product, if we’re talking about a single ticket, would be activated by the end user on the app and it would have a time window that would include the transfer time,” Santilli said.

“So that ticket will be active for at least the 90 minutes that a transfer is good for. More likely it will be something longer than that to cover the time that the trip takes. And then on subsequent trips while that ticket is still active, they will just show the same ticket.”

Russell also asked how the app would work for people with no data on their devices. Santilli said users will need an internet connection to purchase passes, but not to activate and use them.

Halifax Transit has no immediate plans to stop selling the conventional tickets, accepting cash, and issuing paper transfers.

The motion to recommend council approve the proposed fees passed unanimously.

While Halifax Transit is nearly finished planning for electronic fare payment, it’s not finished negotiations with the vendor.

Responding to a question from Coun. Tony Mancini about the launch date, Santilli said he hoped the contract would be done by now.

“Last week, they provided their latest language for the contract that myself, procurement, and legal, we’ll be reviewing and we hope to have everything signed in the next few weeks,” Santilli said.

“And then after that it’s a matter of four to six weeks in terms of rollout.”

Santilli told council in July it could be four months before the app was online, and based on Monday’s comments, it could still happen in November.

Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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  1. I think my biggest concern was the lack of a backup for a system outage and complete reliance on the vendor. That seems extremely shortsighted and doesn’t address things outside of the vendors control (such as local network outage, DDoS/ransomware/other network or system attacks, broken terminals, so on and so forth). This seems highly irresponsible and just generally poor planning.

    As for the system itself, it’s definitely better than what we have and has potential to be very good, but all I could find were promotional/sales videos, and I’d like to hear more from actual system users.

  2. Dumb as usual for Halifax Transit. Unlike some systems that facilitate all-door entry to a bus (a rechargeable card for the user and a tap & go scanner at every door) which can really reduce boarding times, Halifax Transit requires the driver’s attention for each passenger, an unneeded operational bottleneck. Also, riders need to have a smartphone (an expense that not everyone can afford) and it needs to be charged (Fiona anyone?), plus a phone is hard to handle with winter gloves and mittens – buttons to correctly push to bring up the correct screen… Joy, Joy, not.

    1. You said pretty much everything that I would say on this. Just offer a reloadable, tappable card. This again, is not an accessible product, and to spend 1.5 million on this is absolutely horrible. What a waste of money.

  3. Firstly, I am one of those people who don’t own a smart phone so, this will not affect me at all but, as I was warned when moving to Halifax from BC, Halifax is 4 hours ahead and 20 (that’s generous!) years behind. San Francisco’s BART System had a simple card system in the ’70s. As a tourist, there was no learning curve because of the simplicity.

  4. When I visit Toronto, or Ottawa, or Montreal, or Vancouver, I can easily buy or load a transit card – much more convenient than installing an app and fumbling with your phone when boarding a bus. Not sure what led Halifax to decide a phone based system would be better – it’s certainly not tourist friendly, but on the other hand the transit system has never tried to be tourist friendly.

    1. Right on the tourist unfriendly. No maps or routes or schedules info inside the too few bus shelters. Small signs high up, cryptic route info, poorly lit at night, … Poor eyesight? suck it up. Infrequent bus user? Too bad. We don’t want you riding our buses.

  5. I’ll stick with my paper tickets, thanks, assuming, of course, that Transit will still be able to accept them and actually give me a paper transfer in return. I cannot tell from this story whether that will still be an option, but I do know I cannot put an app on a flip phone and I am not the only person I know with a flip.

    1. A line in the story: Halifax Transit has no immediate plans to stop selling the conventional tickets, accepting cash, and issuing paper transfers.

  6. All people will need to do is take a screen shot or pic of someone else’s pass and get on for free. What a waste of money.

    1. It hard to think of a situation where a visual check (by a Transit employee) of a digital image doesn’t lead to widespread fraud/counterfeiting (hardly counterfeiting when they make it so easy).

      1. There’s already a significant amount of counterfeiting of monthly passes, and neither that or some sort of prospective digital counterfeiting bothers me one bit. Transit should be free anyway, and the people I’ve known with fake bus passes need the money.