News   Apr 03, 2020
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Arc Smart Fare System

The machines were turned on early, so I got an Arc ticket to see what they look like. It sort of feels like a business card. There is a 90-minute option, and also a 24-hour option. Also, you can either get one that's good for all regional services ($8 for 90 minutes, and $16 for all day), or one that's just valid for one service (IE Edmonton, Sherwood Park local, or Fort Saskatchewan commuter).
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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
Also, as someone who uses tickets as an occasional transit rider, this doesn't seem to adequately replace them. Then there is the issue of the big penalty if you forget to tap off.

The city seems to indicate they will address some of these issues, which I hope they do, but at the rate they have been going it might be another 5 years.
 
Something I learned today:

1. You can check the balance of your Arc ticket online, just like you can for an Arc card. Looks like their timed window doesn't start until their first tap, and if not used then they expire after one year.

2. I got two tickets from Corona (I was testing different things), and although the security numbers are wildly different in each, the card numbers are sequential. Their first half is the same as Arc cards (609015000), but while the next set of numbers on a card is 10000, the next numbers on the tickets are 3000. Also, the first ticket I bought ends with a 9, and the ticket I bought right after ends with an 8.

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Also, as someone who uses tickets as an occasional transit rider, this doesn't seem to adequately replace them. Then there is the issue of the big penalty if you forget to tap off.
I've never been charged more than one stored value fare for compensation when I forgot to tap off on LRT and ETS buses. I think the main issue is if you're on a commuter bus to travel within St Albert or Strathcona County but forget to tap off, then the compensation fare can be the full ride into Edmonton. But Arc says the compensation fare still counts towards the daily and monthly cap so for a regular commuter who normally reaches the cap, the penalty ends up being zero anyway.

Something I learned today:

1. You can check the balance of your Arc ticket online, just like you can for an Arc card. Looks like their timed window doesn't start until their first tap, and if not used then they expire after one year.
Oh that's useful for travelers who want to prebuy fares without having an Arc card. Although still at cash fares.
 
Judging by the number of people disinterested in grabbing a free Arc card, there might be an uphill battle for adoption.

Would cancelling tickets and passes in the near future help Arc card adoption or hurt transit ridership?
 
Judging by the number of people disinterested in grabbing a free Arc card, there might be an uphill battle for adoption.

Would cancelling tickets and passes in the near future help Arc card adoption or hurt transit ridership?
Help adoption. I doubt it would hurt ridership. If you have to use transit, then you have to use transit. If you're an occasional user that ETS is trying to coax, then the arc card is more convenient than tickets/passes/change (it's one of the most common complaints I hear).

Perhaps you saw lots of people disinterested because they already had a u-pass?
 
Help adoption. I doubt it would hurt ridership. If you have to use transit, then you have to use transit. If you're an occasional user that ETS is trying to coax, then the arc card is more convenient than tickets/passes/change (it's one of the most common complaints I hear).

Perhaps you saw lots of people disinterested because they already had a u-pass?
I couldn't tell if a lot of them were high school or post secondary students. They were all passing the Arc card scanner at the station, unless they're not required to scan before boarding LRT.
 
Judging by the number of people disinterested in grabbing a free Arc card, there might be an uphill battle for adoption.
I was listening to a CBC radio segment about them the other day, and one of the producers was interviewed while she was at Stadium Station. She asked a few people if they'd get one, and a large chunk said they'd wait and see how the launch went first. I don't think a slower uptake is necessarily a bad thing for now.

As peoples' December passes get close to expiring, they see others using the cards, tickets, and vending machines, and they see that it's been working so far, I think a lot will make the jump since they can be confident that the convenience won't come at a cost of dealing with a lot of bugs and outages. If uptake is still slow in the new year when they're rolling out the other fare groups, then I think they should consider ending passes and paper tickets early (they're already planning to phase those out at some point anyway).

My concern is that if adult fare payers are forced to use it so soon, especially when other fare groups aren't able to use Arc yet, it could create a lot of unnecessary ill-will towards Arc—including among people who could have decided on their own to switch over if given a little more time.

Where did you hear about people disinterested in free cards by the way? I've been seeing a lot of questions about where to find them, I'd love to read more about how that's actually going.
 
They were all passing the Arc card scanner at the station, unless they're not required to scan before boarding LRT.
Upass users are required to tap on and off, but a significant majority unfortunately don't since there are no consequences for skipping it at this time. Perhaps that'll change when one or two get dinged by peace officers for not tapping. I wonder if they'd get a ticket for that, or if the peace officers would let them go upon their scanner telling them that it's a UPass.
 
Now that we have the ARC card system up and running, why don't we start adopting turnstiles like many successful metro systems in the world?

1. People need to tap on and tap off. Reduces having to manually enforce ticketing, peace officers can focus on other things.
2. Reduces people catching free rides.
3. Keeps the sketchy non-paying types out side of trains and waiting stations.
4. More profit for ETS due to people not catching free rides.

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Now that we have the ARC card system up and running, why don't we start adopting turnstiles like many successful metro systems in the world?

1. People need to tap on and tap off. Reduces having to manually enforce ticketing, peace officers can focus on other things.
2. Reduces people catching free rides.
3. Keeps the sketchy non-paying types out side of trains and waiting stations.
4. More profit for ETS due to people not catching free rides.

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Because it makes sense and the City of Edmonton doesn't work that way.
 
I was listening to a CBC radio segment about them the other day, and one of the producers was interviewed while she was at Stadium Station. She asked a few people if they'd get one, and a large chunk said they'd wait and see how the launch went first. I don't think a slower uptake is necessarily a bad thing for now.

As peoples' December passes get close to expiring, they see others using the cards, tickets, and vending machines, and they see that it's been working so far, I think a lot will make the jump since they can be confident that the convenience won't come at a cost of dealing with a lot of bugs and outages. If uptake is still slow in the new year when they're rolling out the other fare groups, then I think they should consider ending passes and paper tickets early (they're already planning to phase those out at some point anyway).

My concern is that if adult fare payers are forced to use it so soon, especially when other fare groups aren't able to use Arc yet, it could create a lot of unnecessary ill-will towards Arc—including among people who could have decided on their own to switch over if given a little more time.

Where did you hear about people disinterested in free cards by the way? I've been seeing a lot of questions about where to find them, I'd love to read more about how that's actually going.
Just my anecdotal observation at Clareview Station. There were a couple of people grabbing a free card but dozens just walked on by. I think people should just grab a card now even if they're not comfortable with using it yet.

But I looked into Compass Card roll out in Vancouver and this was the timeline:
  • 2013 - Beta testing started
  • Spring 2015 - Limited public release to West Coast Express commuters which immediately saw their old fare and pass system discontinued (West Coast Express fares work on bus, Seabus, and Skytrain, but not the other way around. With 12,000 trips a day, it was an easy group to roll out to.).
  • Summer 2015 - Compass U-Pass issued to post secondary students for the new school year.
  • October 2015 - Full public release. The new fare gates at Skytrain and Seabus stations remained opened.
  • January 2016 - They stopped selling physical monthly passes and faresaver tickets.
  • June 2016 - Fare gates at Skytrain and Seabus officially closed without a valid Compass card or ticket.
So this Young Padawan (me) needs patience.

Now that we have the ARC card system up and running, why don't we start adopting turnstiles like many successful metro systems in the world?

1. People need to tap on and tap off. Reduces having to manually enforce ticketing, peace officers can focus on other things.
2. Reduces people catching free rides.
3. Keeps the sketchy non-paying types out side of trains and waiting stations.
4. More profit for ETS due to people not catching free rides.

View attachment 440379

Translink never wanted turnstiles stating that the $100 million dollar cost to install them at 49 stations made no sense with the estimated $5-9 million estimated lost to fare evaders each year. But they were forced to or risk losing funding. The federal government paid $40 million and BC government paid $30 million so Translink was on the hook for $30 million for the gates plus $70 million for the smart fare card when all was said and done.

We could have put fare gates at Capital and Metro Line stations but I think it will be difficult to implement on Valley Line.
 
Judging by the number of people disinterested in grabbing a free Arc card, there might be an uphill battle for adoption.

Would cancelling tickets and passes in the near future help Arc card adoption or hurt transit ridership?
Where are they giving out the cards? I want to grab one, but, in three trips each to the Coliseum and Churchill stations, I have yet to see anyone giving them out.
 

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