More than a year after council awarded the contract, Halifax Transit still doesn’t know when its long-promised mobile ticketing application will be online.

Halifax regional council approved a plan for mobile ticketing in 2020, giving up on a previous plan to start using bill-sized tickets.

In July 2022, it approved a $1.5-million contract with Masabi, a U.K.-based company, “for a mobile fare payment application and onboard validators” and five years of technical support. The app will allow transit users to display a ticket on their phone the way they display a transfer or monthly pass now. (Halifax Transit will continue to accept cash and sell paper tickets and monthly passes.)

Marc Santilli, manager of technical services, told councillors it could be four months before the app is up and running.

In October, staff were back in front of councillors to set rates for the new electronic fares.

Santilli said he hoped to have the contract between Halifax Transit and Masabi signed in the coming weeks, with the app rolling out four to six weeks later.

In March 2023, Halifax Transit executive director Dave Reage told councillors during budget deliberations that negotiations were complete and the app should be online this summer.

On Thursday, Reage was at the Transportation Standing Committee. Coun. Waye Mason, chair of the committee, asked about the app.

“We are actively working with the vendor on the implementation of this. So we’re through all the procurement, we’re through all the contract signing, all the statement of work is done, and actively working on the solution now so that’s great,” Reage said.

“At this point, though, obviously, it’s the end of August. This is not going to be ready by end of summer as we had hoped.”

Reage said he’d have a timeline for councillors in the coming weeks, but it will be fall.

“I want to make sure that we have a timeline that’s as ironclad as it can be before we start communicating this again,” Reage said.

Reage said he’s started having “escalation calls” with the vendor to make sure it gets done.

“I appreciate the frustration. Frankly, I share the frustration and we are working away at it,” Reage said.

Mason said the vendor is a “giant” in the world of mobile ticketing.

“I have confidence once it hits the ground, it’s actually going to work. But it’s got to hit the ground,” he said. “So we’re going to have to keep asking. And maybe have a timeline presentation for September while at the Transportation Standing Committee, assuming we have the numbers and it’s available.”

Bike infrastructure in Windsor Street Exchange redesign

Also during Thursday’s meeting, the committee voted to request better active transportation infrastructure as part of the Windsor Street Exchange redesign.

The massive intersection connecting mainland Halifax and Bedford to the peninsula is due for a refresh.

Construction is expected to begin in 2025, and the municipality has floated two design options. One uses roundabouts, and the other uses traditional intersections. Each has a multi-use pathway for people walking, rolling, and cycling.

Council’s Active Transportation Advisory Committee voted at a recent meeting to ask the Transportation Standing Committee to request better active transportation infrastructure as part of the design.

The committee voted on Thursday to direct staff to write a report on the redesign to include:

a.    Separated and wide sidewalks;

b.    Separated and protected bicycle lanes;

c.    Dedicated transit-only lanes for people using public transit;

d.    Protected intersections that are safe for all vulnerable road users; and

e.    Design for 40 KPH traffic speeds

While they supported the request, councillors noted a few limitations.

Coun. Pam Lovelace pointed out that the provincial government still controls speed limits. That means that while HRM can design for speeds lower than 50 km/h, it can’t sign for them without applying to the provincial traffic authority.

And Mason tempered expectations around cycling infrastructure.

“Something’s going to happen. The question is, is it going to be three- or four-metre multi-use path, or is it going to be separated facilities, and what’s good enough, right?” Mason said.

“And I know it drives some of the cycling activists crazy, but I fall on the side of, ‘Let’s keep moving it forward within the available budget and do the best we can.'”

Mason said he expects the final Windsor Street Exchange design, including consideration of these requests, to come to council this fall.

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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