It will be another year and a half before OC Transpo riders will be able to use smart cards to pay the fare, but it will be worth the wait, said transit services general manager Alain Mercier.

Jane Wright, the director for the city’s smart bus project, said they plan to introduce the smart cards for regular adult transit users on Dec. 1, 2011. By March 1, 2012, the system will be fully operational for all riders.

Ottawa will be using the PRESTO card system, which is currently being rolled out in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas.

Between now and March 2012, OC Transpo still has to purchase the hardware for the system, set up a vendor’s network and test the system thoroughly to work out privacy and payment issues that come with converting from the current all-paper format to a virtual system.

When the system is fully functional, it will completely change the way people do business with OC Transpo, said Mercier.

Riders will be able to load their cards from home on their computers, which means no more hour-long lines at client centres at the beginning of each month, said Mercier.

The cards will also give OC Transpo a more accurate measure of the passengers boarding buses, which should lead to more efficient route scheduling down the road, he said.