News   Apr 03, 2020
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Arc Smart Fare System

Great news. Part of me worries that this will make boarding a lot slower. Flashing a bus pass is way faster than the arc card's tap. They really need to find a way to speed it up.

Comments from the peanut gallery:
What would really fix the latency issues is having a local cache of the user balance/passes database on every bus. Even with a million users, this would just be a few gigabytes and could run on <$100 of hardware.

When you tap your card, your balance would be checked on the local database and the transaction would be logged locally. Then asynchronously, the bus would send the transaction log to the central server for everything to be reconciled (could be every few minutes, even once an hour). The central server would forward incoming transactions to all the other busses (you could even skip this step and just do it at night if you want to save data, worst case scenario is someone's balance dips to -$15 instead of the -$5 cap thats intended.)

Having complete data integrity at all times on all busses really is not important. There's no reason that every tap has to phone home to a central server. So long as eventually everyone is charged for every tap they make, it's not a big deal.

Failing that, there are some simpler improvements (if they haven't been done already)
1) Ensure Arc servers are located in Edmonton
2) Get everything down to a single round trip server request
3) Switching from http to websockets
 
Great news. Part of me worries that this will make boarding a lot slower. Flashing a bus pass is way faster than the arc card's tap. They really need to find a way to speed it up.
If the cards are anything like Presto in the GTA boarding won't be much slower, but if the machines take a few seconds to identify the card tap (it is around 1 second with Presto in my experience) than that would slow things down a bit.
 
If the cards are anything like Presto in the GTA boarding won't be much slower, but if the machines take a few seconds to identify the card tap (it is around 1 second with Presto in my experience) than that would slow things down a bit.
From my experience, boarding with a higher % of arc card users takes 2-3x longer than the same number of people using bus passes.
 


 
They interviewed the Transit Director on CBC Radio One just now, and she said they'll distribute around 29,000 free cards. Also, if I understood her correctly, they apparently plan to roll Arc out to youth "in the new year" (don't know if she meant the first few weeks of 2023, or just meant sometime next year), then seniors, then people with low incomes, then paratransit.
 
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My main impediment to loading more dollars onto my Arc card was not being able to replace the card so this is great news. I do also about boarding speed. I haven't timed it exactly but it takes about 1.5 seconds to tap. Faster than dropping change and grabbing a transfer but slower than showing a transfer or pass. But this problem isn't isolated to Edmonton. Anyone remember Vancouver's magnetic stripe transfers? 2-3 seconds to read the damn things. A little better with Compass.

I see they dropped the Arc adult fare from $3 to $2.75 earlier this month.
 
Calgary has their handy app that sells single tickets, day passes, and monthly passes. I used it last year at the Stampede and it was pretty handy except for the realization that I would be at the Stampede all day and kind of hooped if my phone ran out of battery. Calgary doesn't provide discounts for prepaid single tickets or stored value though so advantage Edmonton there.

Accepting credit cards and Interac tap would be the next step to making it easier for tourists.
 
Accepting credit cards and Interac tap would be the next step to making it easier for tourists.

It does say in the article that "Cards and single-use or day tickets can be bought at vending machines in LRT stations or other large transit centres — which will take debit and credit cards"

About freaking time. I don't think there has been anything more CoE than going to a transit station and having to carry small change to buy a simple transit ticket but you can use your VISA Infinite to buy a $1.75 bag of skittles from the ancient two bit vending machine sitting next to it.
 
Calgary has their handy app that sells single tickets, day passes, and monthly passes. I used it last year at the Stampede and it was pretty handy except for the realization that I would be at the Stampede all day and kind of hooped if my phone ran out of battery. Calgary doesn't provide discounts for prepaid single tickets or stored value though so advantage Edmonton there.

Accepting credit cards and Interac tap would be the next step to making it easier for tourists.
Having the Arc Card machine at the airport goes a long way to addressing this but I understand the Arc system is capable of directly accepting credit/debit cards but not yet enabled.
 
It does say in the article that "Cards and single-use or day tickets can be bought at vending machines in LRT stations or other large transit centres — which will take debit and credit cards"

About freaking time. I don't think there has been anything more CoE than going to a transit station and having to carry small change to buy a simple transit ticket but you can use your VISA Infinite to buy a $1.75 bag of skittles from the ancient two bit vending machine sitting next to it.

Having the Arc Card machine at the airport goes a long way to addressing this but I understand the Arc system is capable of directly accepting credit/debit cards but not yet enabled.

Debit/credit right at the tap machine without having to worry about vending machines would be good. It's good they have an Arc machine at the airport but what if they're somewhere that doesn't have one? Not everyone wants to pay $6 to get a card, even if they have to spend more paying the cash fare, although maybe there can be signage indicating that it takes just 8 trips to recoup that initial $6 cost.
 
Debit/credit right at the tap machine without having to worry about vending machines would be good. It's good they have an Arc machine at the airport but what if they're somewhere that doesn't have one? Not everyone wants to pay $6 to get a card, even if they have to spend more paying the cash fare, although maybe there can be signage indicating that it takes just 8 trips to recoup that initial $6 cost.
I think, if I'm understanding correctly (which I probably am not) that it indicates that single use /day tickets can be bought at the fare machines, which will accept debit/credit, without needing to buy the card itself.
 
Oh, I'm mostly talking about stops that don't have an Arc machine, which is over 90% of the bus stops in the city.

I know we can just insist that travellers and rare to occasional transit users get an Arc card and be done with it but a lot of people are just creatures of convenience and will choose other modes of transport otherwise.
 
From my experience, boarding with a higher % of arc card users takes 2-3x longer than the same number of people using bus passes.
What's the theory behind letting people on in the front and back?

My experience in other countries is that there's enough peer pressure for most people to still tap even if they alight from a rear door.
 

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