FOCUS ON: FARE COLLECTION
5 questions to ask when planning an E-Fare strategy
By Stan Craft
There are many reasons to implement an Electronic Fare Management (EFM) system. The riding public enjoys the benefits of convenient methods of purchasing tickets, faster boarding and the simplicity of switching between transport modes. Transit agencies benefit through increased ridership, operational efficiencies, reduced costs and greater security. However, selecting an electronic fare collection system requires a high level of planning, coordination and cooperation between all parties involved. This article explains the basics of EFM, the technologies involved and the five questions to ask potential vendors while planning an E-Fare strategy.
EFM systems are typically comprised of the following components:
• Fare media
• Devices to read / write media
• Depot / station ticket vending machines
• Back office systems
• Relationship with central clearing houses
Fare media – As technology changes rapidly, the choice of electronic fare media is crucial to not only how the new system will be accepted today, but also, what the system will look like 10 or 15 years down the road. Ten years from now, will decisions show that the agency chose technologies able to keep pace with the trends of the future?
Contact and contactless Smartcards offer identity information, authentication and data storage. Contact Smartcards must be inserted into a reader while contactless Smartcards offer the advantage of operating in the proximity of the reader by using radio frequency (RF) induction technology. Smartcards may come in the form of electronic wallets where the smartcard chip is “loaded” with funds. This media eliminates the need for a real-time connection to a bank or central system. Smartcards require the agency to set up issuing mechanisms such as kiosks and / or customer service centers, as well as devices to read and write to the media.
Based on their flexibility and security, ID-based Smartcards provide benefits for both the agency and their riders. With ID-based smartcards, a tiny embedded microchip generates a unique code specific to the rider each time the card is used. The card is linked to a rider’s account where their information and subsequent fare calculations are processed. Security is greater with ID-based cards since the rider’s identification and payment information are safely stored in the back-office system. If the card is lost or stolen, it can simply be blocked and reissued. ID-based cards also benefit the agency by providing a more comprehensive view of riding patterns. This data will help the agency identify and tailor services around high-usage times and locations. ID-based smart cards reduce boarding time at the stops and the use of cash fares.
Mobile ticketing is the process whereby customers can order, pay for, obtain and/or validate tickets using mobile devices.
Mobile tickets reduce the production and distribution costs connected with traditional paper-based ticketing channels and increase customer convenience.
Visually-validated tickets require the driver’s assistance by examining the time and date stamp on the ticket. Barcode-based tickets require a laser scanner and QR code-based tickets require a camera based imager.
Europay, MasterCard, and Visa (EMV) bank cards are the future of e-fare. EMV is a technical standard for smart payment cards, payment terminals and automated teller machines. These smartcards (also called chip cards) store their data on integrated circuits rather than magnetic stripes, although many EMV cards also have stripes for backward compatibility.
Future systems will very likely need to support multi-client capability as well as provide a revenue management solution to define individual agency parameters while at the same time protect important fare and revenue data. Also, Open Application Programming Interfaces (API) and third-party system integration are critical to the success of the entire system.
Ask these five questions while planning an E-Fare strategy:
1. Which media should the agency use: smartcards, barcoded tickets, or mobile tickets? Or, should the agency embrace the credit card open payment method EMV?
2. How will the system integrate with already existing ITS systems and infrastructure?
3. Will the solution help ease the arduous task of connecting with retail partners and suppliers?
4. Will the agency need to accept fares from several other agencies today or in the future?
5. How will transfers be handled?
The technologies available and the vendors to partner with offer an agency many options. Yet each transit agency, large and small, should weigh the pros and cons carefully before choosing the solution that meets their needs today and in the future.
Stan Craft is system architect at INIT Innovations in Transportation, Inc. Visit www.initusa.com.