By the end of the year, Metro will install new fareboxes on all 333 of its buses, thanks to almost $3.6 million in federal funds (80 percent of the cost of the project). Metro fareboxes collect about $23 million in fares annually, representing about 27 percent of Metro’s operating revenue. Metro’s current fareboxes are 17 years old and in need of replacement.
Metro signed the $4.5 million contract yesterday to purchase GFI Odyssey “talking” fareboxes that offer many improvements over Metro’s old fareboxes:
- Smartcards: Customers will be able to buy a monthly pass or load money on a “go*SMART” smartcard. Customers will just tap and go, instead of swiping passes through a magnetic pass reader. If lost or stolen, the smartcard can be de-activated and replaced.
- Change cards: Customers will be able to put up to $20 in the farebox and get a change card worth the remaining value for use on future trips.
- Transfers: When the customer pays for a transfer, the farebox will automatically issue the transfer and print the time that the transfer expires. To use on the next bus, the customer just inserts the transfer in the slot on the farebox.
- Validation: The farebox will not accept invalid fare media. The fareboxes will not accept coins or bills that are not valid U.S. currency.
- New fare options: The new fareboxes will accept “rolling” 30-day passes and passes with $10, $20 or $50 pre-loaded on them. Metro is also considering other pass options to meet customers’ needs.
- Ridership reporting: The new fareboxes will offer improved ridership reporting capabilities to help Metro better analyze ridership patterns and make decisions related to service design and frequency. Metro’s old fare technology does not provide this level of ridership analysis.
“One of our goals is to make riding Metro easier and more convenient for our customers and potential customers,” said Terry Garcia Crews, Metro’s CEO. “The new fareboxes will provide more payment options and much greater flexibility for customers, and will help Metro boost productivity by generating detailed ridership data that Metro needs to manage our service. This is one more step in operating a more efficient and customer-friendly public transportation network.”
As part of the contract, Metro negotiated to sell its old fareboxes back to GFI. Metro has received four training fareboxes that are being programmed now to test the new technology before installation on the entire fleet later this year.
Metro’s new GFI Odyssey fareboxes are being funded 80 percent by Section 5307 formula funds and Section 5309 discretionary earmark funds made available by the Federal Transit Administration, matched by 20 percent local funding.