Gordon says it’s a matter of really understanding your riders and, if you want to make a radical change, having all the necessary planning, marketing and education done in advance.
“We always cite Houston because it’s a really good example,” Gordon says.
“I think they had something in the order of 50 or 60 different types of [fare] cards and this and that, and I think they are down to one.
“But to do that, I think they were very creative. They had a very good education. A very good outreach. They alerted the public. They gave them incentives, monetary incentives.
“And even better it’s all attitude, so when you want to make somewhat of a radical change, it’s more than the technology, it’s the people,” Gordon says.
From A to X
When Gordon talked about being with a series of companies, he meant it. There was Fairchild Space & Defense, Orbital, ACS and now ACS a Xerox Company.
So how do you undergo that amount of change and maintain a quality product? As with agencies integrating new technology when ACS integrated TMS (Transit Management Systems) from Orbital, it’s about the people.
“A merger — it’s firstly cultural between two companies,” Gordon says.
“I think from our point it went very well. I think there are different styles when you combine two companies, but because there was not a large, maybe degree, of overlap between the fare and fleet management it worked out well.”
Gordon says it’s all about learning the language of integration.
“We’ve had an opportunity now to bring a more U.S. focus on fare collection. We’ve been spending a lot of time working [on] the underlying technology,” Gordon says.
“And each city thinks different, each nation thinks different, but certainly we think working together as integrated systems, as well as integrated companies, has worked out very, very well in my opinion in a very short time.
“Sometimes culturally it just never works out, and it’s not an international [thing], it’s two different cultures of two different companies coming together to work. And I think this worked out very, very well. So I am pleased.”
Keeping it Simple
Gordon stressed to me how important it was for agencies to know their ridership, not only as collected data, but how they would react to implementation of new policies and technologies.
“It’s really, you know when we emphasize it, I think agencies really have to know their ridership, and education I think is No. 1,” Gordon says.
“I think it’s like anything else, if they want to do regionalization they should start that early.
“Do they want to have their new system implement the same fare policy as their old system, which is possible, or do they want to go to a different fare policy on the new system,” Gordon says.
“I hate this, it sounds trite. Our system really has, from the fare rules, almost unlimited possibilities. So when you give too many options to the customer it’s difficult to decide.
“So sometimes it’s better to go to somebody who is an independent consultant to work with them. If I gave them all the options, that would be too much, but we’ve found with too many options it makes the situation difficult.
“And that’s just us, we can do what the agency wants. How many options do they want to give their riders?
“But certainly it seems you want to give them a reasonable number of options that encourages the rider to use mass transit and makes their experience simple. And what that number of options is, is really an agency decision.
“You have to do it in a way … you have to find your real balance between encouraging use and not making it that difficult.”