Big Blue Bus goes high-tech

Santa Monica transit agency partners with LECIP to improve fare collection

Riders can dump a handful of change into LECIP’s validator and the box will differentiate legal tender and disregard illegitimate coins.

A recent partnership with LECIP, Inc., Motosu City, Japan, worth more than $7 million moves Big Blue Bus (BBB), Santa Monica, CA, closer to a high-tech future in fare collection in which LECIP will develop and install news fareboxes and a new central computer system. This represents the first North American transit contract for LECIP, though the company has worked in the transit industry for over 30 years.

BBB says they took a long, hard look at various organizations before settling on LECIP’s bid.

“Interestingly enough, I believe we were the first property in North America to employ the Odyssey farebox for GFI Genfare,” says BBB Chief Executive Officer, Patrick Campbell, “We’re close to the end of a reasonable life cycle for that equipment, and we’d like to offer additional fare media to riding public. GFI’s fare box incorporates smart cards, but we wanted to look at doing different things, such as integrating Los Angeles Metro’s Transit Access Pass (TAP) regional cards for seamless integration between our transit systems. Those were the main factors for our decision to replace the fare boxes.”

Once the bids started rolling in, Campbell says LECIP was BBB’s clear choice.

“We liked the modular design,” says Patrick. “If, at a later date we want to go directly to a manufacturer for the coin validator, we can do that. We’re taking the best technological solutions out there and incorporating them into the box.”

This partnership includes the Trapeze Group and features the first North American deployment of Trapeze’s Mobile Ticketing Solution, a smartphone application that allows riders to get real-time bus information and pay by mobile phone. LECIP fare boxes will have a barcode scanner to scan the phone and process the fare.

“Trapeze will also allow a driver to log into the fare system and the fleet management system at the same time, what’s known as single point log-in.” says Chung Chung Tam, LECIP vice president, Automated Fare Collection Systems.  “Their employee ID smartcard will tap the farebox, and link with the employee ID number shared through the Trapeze system. They can actually pull their day’s schedule from the system.”

A big part of choosing LECIP, says Campbell, was to better serve its contracts with the Santa Monica’s college community that includes UCLA and Santa Monica College. Some students get discounted tickets through their university while others ride for free. LECIP aims to integrate the BBB database with the schools’ internal databases.

Tam says the current installation date for the new fare boxes is December, 2013. At this time, LECIP will be active in training BBB technicians and operators to maintain the system after the company leaves town.

“Our approach is to train the technician how to manage the system, so they can provide their own support,” says Tam. “We are ready to step in and help with any issue they may have, especially with the central computer system. We supply two years of warranty for fixes to the system.”

Among other features, the LECIP farebox includes coin and bill validation, a magnetic stripe processor and a smart card swipe reader. Riders can dump a handful of change into the validator and the box will differentiate legal tender and disregard illegitimate coins. Likewise, the box is able to differentiate between $20 bills and $10 bills.

“We aim to give our customers and our passengers the best solution out there,” Campbell says. “The LECIP software is robust and so far they’ve shown every effort and attention to supporting this project. It’s been a very good experience.” BR