“[It’s been] convincing the supplier industry and systems integrators that open payment is feasible in transit,” he said.
The learning curve in the road
Cubic Transportation Systems Inc. is a provider of open payment integration and development, a field that company VP and regional director Steve Brunner admits is “still in its infancy.” As part of the developing know-how on open systems, Cubic is introducing cards at the PATCO system in the Delaware River region. That system will go live in late September, with PATCO-branded Visa contactless reloadable cards available to customers for six months, then moving to full acceptance of many major bank card brands. In addition, the system will continue to offer card options for under- or un-banked customers.
The big question mark in the room isn’t on getting the correct systems or even bringing PATCO in the modern age of open payment; it’s with customer acceptance, something not entirely known until a system is underway, Brunner said.
“Today, in a closed loop system, when an agency-issued smart card or magnetic ticket is presented at a transit payment device the customer obtains an immediate indication of the fare charged along with the remaining balance on their fare media. With an open-payment card the fare charge will appear on the customer’s statement after it is processed,” Brunner said. “This is a big change in how customers have traditionally interacted with a transit payment device and as a part of the PATCO implementation we will evaluate and refine our solution to improve the perception and acceptance of open payments.”
Wallace’s PRESTO system has already been introduced with open standards in Southern Ontario, including Canada’s largest city, Toronto, and will expand to Ottawa’s users by spring 2012, according to its user site. With all of that in place, PRESTO plans to introduce new functionality completely unavailable to token machines or traditional fare cards such as payment via mobile or smartphone, and account management through Facebook. Even with all of that in the hopper, Wallace said it is vital to keep one aspect in mind for both the provider and the user: the bottom line.
“The largest obstacle is the total cost of the ownership and the operation of these systems in the direct and indirect cost to the transit retailer and their customers,” Wallace said. “The issue of consumer and household debt is a serious public policy issue and the use of public transit cannot be seen to aggravate that issue.”