Thursday, February 22, 2024

BC Transit launches Umo fare system in Nanaimo and Cowichan Valley


BC Transit has made the first steps in expanding the tap-payment system for its buses after  launching in Victoria in late August. 

The system is called Umo, and the Victoria Regional Transit System was the first branch of BC Transit to pilot the new software.

Now, Umo has been launched in Nanaimo as well as the Cowichan Valley region. 

“The Regional District of Nanaimo is committed to working with and supporting our partners to ensure our transit service is accessible, effective, and meets the needs of riders,” said Vanessa Craig, Chair of the Regional District of Nanaimo.

“Implementing BC Transit’s Umo option is an exciting step that will improve access and foster seamless connections for our riders both within our region and beyond.”

How to pay

Bus-goers in regions with Umo implemented will now be able to pay for their bus ride on the free Umo app via their Apple or Android smartphone or a reloadable Umo payment card.

By simply loading their virtual wallet on the Umo app and scanning a QR code within the app, riders will be able to do away with making sure they have their bus fare in exact change before leaving the house.

As an added bonus, bus riders will be able to navigate their municipality easier by accessing real-time information on the buses they need to catch as well as route information.

For those who don’t want another app on their phones or don’t have a smartphone to begin with, Umo cards can be picked up for free at certain BC Transit vendors in Nanaimo and Cowichan Valley

Money can be loaded onto the cards through Umo’s website, or they can be topped up by calling Umo’s customer service call centre.  

At this time, the Umo cards and app are the only ways to pay, but BC Transit eventually plans on making the scanners able to read credit and debit cards. 

The launch date of this phase of the Umo rollout has yet to be determined. 

Customers can also still pay with cash, including change, if that’s their desired payment method. BC Transit says at this time, they don’t know whether or not they will eliminate cash payments as a method going forward. 

New ways to ride

BC Transit is slightly changing the types of passes available to its riders along with this launch, just like they did for Victoria when Umo launched here. 

To replace the monthly pass, BC Transit is launching the 30-Day Pass and the $5 DayPASS will be replaced as well by Umo. 

Beginning with Umo’s implementation, individuals paying with their Umo app or card will pay $2.50 for their first and second rides of the day, but after that they will not be charged when they scan their QR code or their pass. 

Rider’s daily fare will automatically cap out at $5 allowing them unlimited daily travel, without having to hold onto their transfer slip. 

For those who normally utilize a U-Pass or ProPass, they will be sent a code by their institution, allowing them to easily set up their pass through the app or call centre. 


The total cost to implement Umo across the 30 specified regions is just over $23.2 million.

Umo’s launch throughout BC Transit is 50% funded by the Canadian government, 40% funded by the province with the last 10% being paid for by the municipality it is serving. 

Curtis Blandy

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