Carleton students’ U-Passes will be changing over to smart cards, after the cards were tested in a pilot program by the University of Ottawa (U of O), Saint Paul University (SPU), and Algonquin College last summer.
The change of U-Passes to smart cards, subject to begin this summer, overlaps with the new fare gate infrastructure being built along the O-Train Trillium and Confederation lines, which will be operational later this year.
According to Pat Scrimgeour, director of transit customer systems and planning at OC Transpo, there will be almost no difference between the old and new U-Passes.
“There is absolutely no difference, except the smart card will have embedded technology inside that will allow it to be tapped at a fare gate or smart card reader on buses,” he said. “The card itself will otherwise be the same as the current U-Pass in use.”
Another benefit of the new cards, Scrimgeour said, will be the possibility of data collection to assist in route and system planning.
Cards that are lost can be “hot-listed” or cancelled, therefore reducing the misuse of cards, he said.
Previously, if a student dropped classes and was therefore no longer eligible for the U-Pass, the card would no longer be valid but there was no way for an OC Transpo employee to verify the status of the card.
“They’re really stepping up that level of security,” said Fahd Alhattab, president of the Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA).
A positive effect of this enhanced security will be a lower cost of card replacement in the event of loss or theft. Currently, if a student loses their U-Pass the replacement cost is $25, which then increases to an amount close to the original price of the U-Pass by the third replacement, according to Alhattab. With the new smart cards, the replacement cost will be fixed at $25, no matter how often a student loses their card.
“They were trying to deter someone ‘losing’ it but actually giving it to a friend who might physically look a bit similar. Now, the other card would get cancelled,” Alhattab said.
He said the transition to a smart card system will be a two-stage process, with the first round of smart cards still being part of the pilot project and being valid from this summer until April 30, 2018. Once the second round of cards are issued, students will be able to keep the same U-Pass card for the rest of their studies at Carleton.
“Right now, every year you have to get a new U-Pass, which takes up time, it’s a lot of waiting and a lot of resources, printing the cards, etc. Once you get this card you’re able to extend it year after year as long as you’re [enrolled] in classes,” Alhattab said.
However, the new smart cards come with a different usage style than previous U-Passes. In addition to having to tap their cards at fare gates and on buses, at the end of each semester students will have to extend their passes at extender kiosks, which will be located on campus, in order for their cards to be valid in the following semester.
Despite concerns raised during construction of the new system, Darryl Boyce, assistant vice-president (facilities management and planning) at Carleton, said the three fare gates on each side of the station should not pose an issue for students trying to get to class on time.
The change to the new smart cards was of no cost to CUSA, and there should be no cost to the university because OC Transpo mandated the change, according to Alhattab.
“OC Transpo is making the switch over, therefore they should be paying for it,” he said.
– Photo by Angela Tilley
Source: The Charlatan