By Ann Derby
The Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) is an association of local governments in the six-county Sacramento, CA, region that provides transportation planning and funding for the region, and serves as a forum for the study and resolution of regional issues. Its members include the counties of El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba, as well as an additional 22 cities within the Sacramento region. In addition to preparing the region’s long-range transportation plan, SACOG assists in planning for transit, bicycle networks, clean air and airport land uses.
Finding an e-fare solution to successfully connect several area transit systems using one simple fare card was the primary goal of the Council. For this reason, a consortium of six different transit operators was formed, including Sacramento Regional Transit District, Yolo County Transportation, Yuba-Sutter Transit, Elk Grove Transit, El Dorado Transit and Folsom Stage Lines. The task of the consortium was to find a provider that could integrate the multi-client, e-fare solution while ensuring the individual requirements of each agency.
The aspects of the proposed fare solution that were critical for the success of SACOG’s new “Connect Transit Card” smart card started with the architecture of the system. SACOG wanted it build around a new Regional Service Center (RSC) which would serve as the central nervous system and data hub for the e-fare project. The RSC would connect to system garages, vehicles and light rail platforms though fiber optics and Wi-Fi connections.
Next, the Council wanted to give passengers the ability to easily purchase fares on their smart cards for any of the participating transit systems through multiple outlets. This would include online, by phone, at vending machines or at storefront locations. The new solution had to make it convenient for passengers to establish a cash purse for different fares based on time, trip or unlimited rides and allow users to register their cards for loss protection, as well as to track their balances or usage.
The most important aspect however was the backend system. The job of managing fare details, including clearing processes and revenue sharing between agencies, was critical due to the structure of the multi-agency project. This would require a software system that could also handle all fare structure while maintaining individual property requirements.
In the final analysis, SACOG judged that INIT was going to give the Connect Transit Card Consortium the best overall value. The agencies partnered with INIT to provide the state-of-the-art electronic fare collection solution for the Sacramento region. The contract outlined the implementation of smart card passenger terminals on approximately 500 of the agencies’ buses, Add Fare Machines (AFM), and validators at more than 80 locations on rail station platforms. All of the new fare terminals were designed for use by visually impaired passengers with Braille and audio features.
Additionally, top-up and sales terminals would be installed at more than 42 retail sites and 28 various rail platforms. The terminals provide additional convenience for passengers by accepting credit or debit cards, as well as the new standard, EMV (Europay, MasterCard and VISA) cards which is the global standard for inter-operation of integrated circuit cards.
The new e-fare technology project is expected to bring new life to the region’s transit providers while streamlining fare processes for SACOG’s six county consortium. The main benefits of the project will be realized through the ability to increase efficiency and on-time performance. Customers will be able to conveniently transfer between the various transit systems due to the convenient new fare system.
Using INIT’s back-end system for handling all fare collection and clearing processes will benefit the Council by allowing them to streamline those time consuming tasks and increase efficiency.
Overall, the innovative solution perfectly aligns with SACOG’s mission to offer an efficient area-wide transportation system within the Sacramento region. The e-fare project is expected to be complete by the end of 2013. BR
Ann Derby is the director of marketing and events for INIT, Innovations in Transportation, Inc.