“Now there are new passes coming out where there’s limited-use smart cards, which are much smaller chips with smaller memory.” He continues, “Instead of being embedded in a credit card-size piece of plastic, they’re embedded in a thin sheet of laminate material or paper so that they’re thin, cheap and disposable.”
GFI Genfare’s limited-use proximity integrated circuit cards (LUPICC), also known as “think cards,” were developed precisely for this use. The cards are manufactured using 10-mil stock and, though still more expensive than magnetic fare cards, they are well-suited for short duration passes and could replace magnetics if the cost continues to drop.
One other way in which fare collection technology is changing is adaptation to its environment. With the expanding bus rapid transit (BRT) market, GFI Genfare has made improvements that are better suited to this particular environment. Sunlight-readable passenger displays, which are readable in all ambient lighting conditions, including direct sunlight and weather-resistant cabinet for outdoor conditions have made its Vendstar Ticket Vending Machine more suitable for this market.
There’s a variety of fare media that need to be supported, including limited-use smart cards, general purpose smart cards, bank cards, NFC phones and, of course, cash. With changes in currency, technology is making it easier for agencies to adapt. “Money is changing in the United States,” says Dukous. “They’re adding more color features on the currency so what we’ve developed, we’ve added new optic color sensors that typically scan both sides of the bill to optimize the pattern recognition.”
Future technology is looking toward remote updates. “In older technology you would have to do one individually,” says Dukous. “If you have 1,000 buses in your authority, that takes a long time.
“Down the road there’s the opportunity where you could remotely download through a network; that’s a lot quicker and faster,” he explains.
“As the new $5 bill is introduced, we have a flash memory card where you’re able to basically update the bill validators in eight to 15 seconds,” he explains. “You put in a memory stick and it updates itself in the new firmware.”
Currency management is something else that’s making things more cost-effective for the agencies. “It validates money, it recycles money and it dispenses money,” says Dukous. “It improves productivity, it increases profitability, reduces outputting costs and reduces shrinkage.
“Typically you’re using the money that you receive to also dispense so the transit agencies have to spend less time replenishing the dispenser with change in order to give out change.” He adds, “There are less labor costs involved.”
Projects to Watch
Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) update replaced its entire fare collection system. As one of the oldest agencies, it had some of the oldest equipment out there. This project was facilitating all modes of transit to its smart card, the Charlie card. The system went live January 1, 2007 and within a month and a half, there were 1.2 million cards distributed in the system. With 60 percent of the transactions on the Charlie card, it’s been an overall success in record time.
In Atlanta the smart card pays for more then just your fare. At the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), the rider’s smart card can also pay for his or her parking, making paying for parking more convenient and efficient for the rider. You present your card to the reader, it encodes the data to the smart card so you don’t get anything from the machine. When you leave the lot, you just go to an exit, hold up the card that scans the data that was encoded as you entered, it calculates how much you owe and subtracts that off the stored value and away you go. It takes steps out of the process, saving time and money.
Trials of specially equipped cell phones being used to pay transit fares are underway in San Francisco at BART and in London’s TTC. In San Francisco, pre-selected trial participants will use Sprint trial phones that are embedded with near field communication (NFC)-enabled smart chips.