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Transit tap: new changes to transit payment methods, fares proposed

Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
By Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
June 12th, 2023

A change is on the way for how people riding the West Kootenay Transit System will be paying for the lift, with the fare structure also being altered in the process.

An electronic fare collection system — with an alignment of regional rates — is being introduced to the West Kootenay service by B.C. Transit, along with the Umo fare technology platform.

According to B.C. Transit, Umo will give people who ride transit several new ways to buy and use fares, as well as streamlining fare policies across the province.

With Umo, customers will be able to pay for their fare using a mobile app, with a reloadable smart card that can be managed through a customer website, or topped up at retail vendor locations.

“On the bus, new fare validators will be installed, and riders will present their mobile app or reloadable smart card for fare verification. In the near future, riders will also be able to tap their credit or debit card onboard to pay their fare when boarding,” said City chief financial officer Chris Jury in his report to Nelson City council on June 6.

He said the mobile application comes with additional features like trip planning and real-time bus location updates.

The Umo system will align conventional, paratransit and Health Connections cash and Umo single ride fares to $2.25, with five paratransit routes — with cash-only fares ranging from $1.25 and $2 — seeing a rise in cost and three Health Connections routes — with cash-only fares of $3.50 or $4 — that will drop.

Although City council passed the changes to the transit policy, Umo is scheduled for introduction late this year and the changes will be updated in next year’s annual operating agreement to reflect Umo pricing. The changes to the transfer policy and fares will be implemented when Umo launches.

There was some concern on council that the changes would negatively affect the transit experience for many riders.

“I understand that many people find this more convenient, but my understanding is that the demographic that rides buses … may not understand this technology and may be uncomfortable with it,” said Coun. Jesse Pineiro.

People can still pay cash and can transfer with cash and do not need the app at all, said Coun. Rik Logtenberg.

“If you have a card you will eventually be able to tap with a card, so there should be the convenience there for people that don’t have a phone and don’t carry cash,” he said. “The goal overall is just to increase convenience.

“And, especially with the app, one of the things it is more focusing on isn’t necessarily the people that are riding today in part, but to broaden the ridership, to make it, overall, a more attractive option for everybody to taking a car.”

The proposed changes were presented to the West Kootenay Transit committee and, along with B.C. Transit, recommended the proposed changes.


Full refunds are available for unused fare products purchased by the customer.

No refunds for any partially used or expired fare products. Refunds available on stored value amounts of greater than ten dollars.

Fare product expiration

Pre-purchased packs of 10 rides (previously tickets), or portions thereof, and DayPASS fare products will expire after 365 days from the date of purchase.

30-day pass

Replacing the monthly pass fare product with the 30-day pass fare product.

B.C. Transit is recommending that current calendar-based monthly pass products be converted to more flexible 30-day passes. For customers, the 30-day pass can be purchased and used at any time in the month, removing the need to wait for the start of a month as is the case with the current product.

The 30-day pass can also be set up to be automatically repurchased to a customer’s account, removing the need to repurchase a new pass monthly.

Transfer policy

Transfers are available for use on the next connecting bus within 90 minutes of the original fare payment or product use.

When considering the impact on riders in the West Kootenay Transit System, the existing policy allows riders to make an uninterrupted, single-direction trip utilizing a single transfer.

For riders travelling longer than 90 minutes or using multiple buses, the new transfer policy would require the payment of additional single rides.

Cash fares alignment

Aligning conventional, paratransit and Health Connections cash and Umo Single Ride fares to $2.25.

“To ensure that the customer experience is consistent for riders using Umo throughout the system, B.C. Transit is recommending that all single ride fares be aligned to the $2.25 fare,” said Jury in his report.

There are five paratransit routes that have cash-only fares ranging from $1.25 and $2, with three Health Connections routes with cash-only fares of $3.50 or $4.

“Aligning these fares to the $2.25 single-ride fare will enable these services to be seamlessly integrated in Umo and create a consistent experience for riders,” said Jury. “Though an estimate on impacts to revenue and ridership is not available, they are expected to be nominal.”

Source: City of Nelson agenda, June 6

Categories: General


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