In Florida, the Easy Card is helping transit riders transfer between Miami-Dade Transit’s Metrorail and Metrobus and South Florida RTA’s Tri-Rail. MDT introduced the Easy Card in October 2009, and in January 2011 SFRTA introduced it into its system. A regional monthly pass allows travelers to seamlessly travel between the two systems.
In Miami, the Easy Card was introduced in phases to help passengers with transition. “The Easy Card was implemented in phases to minimize disruption to passengers during the transition. The phased-in implementation allowed for system testing addressing any potential glitches,” says Karla Damian, information officer, Miami-Dade Transit.
The Easy Card system consists of the Easy Card and the Easy Ticket. “The EasyCard is a durable, reloadable plastic card, which can be used for up to three years and has an initial cost of $2. Riders can also opt to us e a paper-based Easy Ticket (no initial charge for the ticket), which can be used up to 60 days but has less flexibility (fare-paying options) than the Easy Card. To ride on MDT buses and trains, passengers simply tap their loaded card or ticket on a bus farebox or Metrorail fare gate,” Damian says.
It was SFRTA that reached out to MDT about creating a regional system, says Renee Matthews, director of special projects for SFRTA. “We reached out to Miami-Dade following our research and procurement process to determine whether or not they’d be willing to cooperate in developing this regional system. They were and then we held a series of meetings and came to an agreement. ”
The back office system is administered by Miami-Dade and the two agencies have a shared customer service center, Matthews says.
Informing the Public
MDT launched an extensive marketing campaign to inform riders of how the new fare collection system worked. The campaign included radio and television promotion, a comprehensive print media campaign in three languages (English, Spanish and Creole), community outreach meetings and interior and exterior bus and rail advertising, explains Damian.
Matthews says community outreach turned out to be one of the hardest parts of the whole project
“The first thing we did on the very first day of the full system launch is we had a customer education campaign put together out on the station platforms,” Matthews says.
The system does not work with Broward County Transit and Palm Trans Buses. However, Matthews says there is a project underway headed by the Florida Department of Transportation to study what resources and technology would be needed to equip their buses to accept the Easy Card.
Damian offers this bit of advice for other agencies exploring regional farecards: “Miami-Dade Transit attributes much the success of its Easy Card system implementation to the fact that MDT had full control of the project, as well as direct contact with the contractor. Miami-Dade Transit’s recommendation to other agencies trying to implement their own automated fare collection system is to form strong a partnership with their contractor, so that the agency and contractor can both work toward the common goal of achieving a fast and successful implementation.”
Goodwin advises regions with multiple transit operators to establish a streamlined regional fare policy that will limit the number of possible fare combinations. “That is the No. 1 lesson that we’ve learned.”
His other piece of advice is to make sure you reach out to all members of the community, not just your regular weekday commuters.
“It’s important to remember that this is not a project that is going to come together over night. A great deal of planning and coordination is necessary. Just how long it will take really depends on the size of the system,” Poling says. However, “The very best an agency can plan for if they’re going to a smart card system or one of the new technologies, is two years at the very best.”