A major issue with mobile ticketing in the U.S. is a lot of transit agencies have already installed their own proprietary equipment, meaning different software or equipment is needed depending on where you’re trying to use transit. Thomas said there has been talk of standardization, but it’s a difficult issue to tackle given the amount of agencies out there being governed by different bodies and the amount of vendors using their own equipment.
“It’s not quite the panacea people think,” Thomas said. “Just because you pay for bus fare using it in Atlanta doesn’t mean you can in Chicago.”
Making the leap to a smart card system might be a great idea, but Green said it’s also an expensive one, which may make it tougher for smaller agencies to invest and incur the ongoing operational costs. Part of the deal with Xerox gives SEPTA a license of the equipment within Pennsylvania and neighboring areas outside of the state, so leaders have begun talking with small and midsized systems to upgrade their equipment in the future.
“Quite frankly, the smaller or midsized agencies can invest in the infrastructure or readers, but they can’t invest in the back end of the system,” he said. “It’s just too large of a jump for them given the other needs they have, but we see an opportunity to enable them to go the way of the smart cards in the years ahead, so we’re beginning to reach out to our sister agencies and smaller agencies across the commonwealth.”
Smart card and RFID technology will continue to evolve and offer new options for transit agencies to explore. And those making the investments now are confident they’re headed in the right direction.
“At this point it’s a heavy lift for us because we’re kind of at the forefront of the open payment scheme, but we’re confident of the direction we’re going because we truly believe that instead of customers just paying for transit, we should assume the same role as paying for any other good or service,” McGee said. “We see ourselves evolving to the role of the merchant for folks to use repeatedly.”
For more on fare collection trends, visit www.MassTransitmag.com/10859183.