The days of hunting for the exact change to buy a bus ticket in Canberra could be over, with the territory's new system set to be entirely cashless.
The ACT government will begin an open tender process in its long-running hunt for a new ticketing platform, four years after it first promised to replace the now decade-old MyWay system.
The government has set 2023 as the new date for when the ticket system will be in operation, with an open tender process expected to begin in the middle of this year for the long-promised upgrade.
Last February, the ACT government announced it would replace the MyWay system but remained tight-lipped about the procurement method. It said at the time a provider would be appointed by the middle of 2020.
Now the government has begun sounding out the market, giving ticketing and real-time passenger information system suppliers until mid-May to have their say on what a new ticketing system could look like.
The government wants the new system to replace both the MyWay ticketing platform and the NXTBUS real-time passenger information service.
"Transport Canberra is seeking to incorporate a real time passenger information system into any future ticketing system to enable commuters to plan and pay for their journey within the same platform," the documents said.
Transport Canberra has said the coronavirus pandemic was a "unique opportunity to accelerate a cashless ticketing system".
"Given the forced implementation under the current pandemic environment, we have revised the scope to remove the requirement for providers to accommodate cash transactions, allowing the territory to move to 100 per cent cashless public transport system as well as a future-focused cost-effective state-of-the-art ticketing solution," the pre-tender consultation documents said.
Cash fares have not been sold on Canberra's buses since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, when bus drivers were stopped from handling money in efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Alongside "tokens", the new system should include open-loop payments, allowing passengers to pay for their fares using their mobile phones or credit and debit cards, potential suppliers have been told.
The system would also need to work across buses and light rail and varied fare structures.
"It is intended that the new solution will facilitate the concessionary needs of our vulnerable Canberrans whilst providing opportunities to improve the accessibility of public transport to those who most need it," the documents said.
Transport Minister Chris Steel in November blamed the pandemic for delays in upgrading the system.
"The ACT government is prioritising developing a COVID recovery plan for public transport and the role of a new ticketing system will be considered as part of this," he said at the time.
In 2017, the ACT government allocated more than $7 million in the budget for a new ticketing system, promising to go to market to find a supplier for the upgrade.
The move was informed by a study tour of the US and Canada taken by then transport minister Meegan Fitzharris, but the project never progressed.
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