Plug and play
Fare Logistics’ Voyager Farebox offers distinct advantages to transit agencies
By Richard Tackett
Fare Logistics, Victoria, BC, Canada, provides fare solutions for small to medium-sized transit operations across North America. From its beginning in the 1980s developing proprietary card systems, the company launched its first-generation farebox in 2002. That box, the TotalFARE system, processed magnetic stripe tickets and smart media. Fare Logistics developed its second-generation system, the Voyager Farebox, in 2004.
Tamara Sears, Fare Logistics’ director of marketing and customer service, says the Voyager processes smartcards, magnetic stripe cards, cash and secure barcode media. Tickets or barcodes are automatically validated by the box, ensuring that the driver doesn’t need to stand up or intervene with the purchase. In addition, drivers can log in and out of their agency’s employee system by simply tapping in or tapping out with smartcards of their own.
Sears says the farebox’s touchscreen is fully customizable for any operation. Agencies can configure the appearance of the buttons, their location and the actions they perform.
The Voyager fare information is relayed to a home office via wireless transmission. When the box is within range of the antenna at the garage it automatically initiates a wireless transfer. This removes the need for a physical probe to download or upload data from the Voyager Farebox.
“We’re in the final stages of deploying a QR reader, which will allow for processing bar codes through a mobile app,” Sears says. “There’s no actual fare media issuance. Mobile payments will all be done electronically through a smartphone.”
Plug and play
The Voyager Farebox features an innovative “plug and play” design that allows for agencies to easily swap outdated or malfunctioning components. The box’s components operate on two layers, a hardware abstraction layer and a layer of software business logic. The hardware abstraction layer houses the box’s physical components including the smartcard reader, the printer, the coin validator and the bill validator. The software business layer communicates with the abstraction layer, which in turn communicates with the different components.
“Any time we need to swap out a component for any reason, we can implement the new component by updating the hardware abstraction layer,” says Sears. “This means we don’t have to redeploy code for specific interactions. We aren’t beholden to a specific brand of component,” she adds. “We can pick the best of all of the available components.”
Hans Rodenburgh, project manager, Business Development, says that the ability to swap out various components is a boon to transit agencies seeking to save time and money. There’s no need to keep a wealth of spare components because outdated components can be replaced on the fly.
“The value to the agency is the fact that we’ve extended the life of their farebox. They are no longer trying to maintain outdated components,” Rodenburgh says. “We haven’t locked in an agency into having a ton of spare parts in case something breaks down. We’ll take on the responsibility of making sure that their system will continue to operate in the future should parts become unavailable.”
Sears says that one of the transit industry’s biggest issues is the need to replace products that have reached end-of-life., thus requiring years’ worth of spare parts inventory.
“That’s predicting the future, and there is no crystal ball,” she says. “If the smartcard world comes up with a brand new successor to current fares, agencies are stuck with swapping out the entire collection system. Users of the Voyager only have to swap out a single component.”
Fare Logistics also provides a web interface for its customers called TransAdmin. Apart from configuring routes and bus stops, the open-architecture system allows transit agencies to manage data and adjust their operations accordingly. TransAdmin tracks all GPS information as well as upwards of 16 additional data elements per transaction.
“When an agency plans bus routes and stops on an annual basis, they can look at data that shows where people are boarding and how they’re paying,” Rodenburgh says. “We can report the whole ridership profile.”
Sears points to one agency that benefited a great deal from Fare Logistics’ detailed data reporting.
“By simply running that report, one agency was able to modify their operations,” she says. “They thought their peak hours were in the morning but they found they were busiest in the afternoon. They changed their routes to accommodate the new info. It’s helpful to agencies that they don’t need to have a passenger counting system in addition to the Voyager.” BR