Smart Card Alliance guides chip technology

Association is open to any company with interest in new forms of fare payment

By Glenn Swain

Mass transit agencies worldwide have been using prepaid value cards for electronic ticketing since the 1970s and have since begun transitioning from magnetic stripe technology to contactless smart cards in automatic fare collection (AFC) systems. U.S. transit agencies have made significant investments in contactless smart card-based automatic fare collection (AFC) systems, with over $1 billion in contracts awarded for new systems that incorporate the latest developments in information technology (IT). Most of these systems use agency-branded contactless smart cards as the primary fare medium.

The Smart Card Alliance, a non-profit association representing a variety of industries, formed in 2000 to promote understanding, adoption, use and widespread application of smart card technology through education, research and advocacy.

“Smart Card Alliance is open to any company with an interest in adopting chip technology and new forms of fare payment,” says Smart Card Alliance Executive Director, Randy Vanderhoof. “Smart cards give us a vision of the future so companies in all industries can develop products and services to meet market needs and demand.”

He says members join the Smart Card Alliance to participate in work groups, conferences and webinars to stay abreast of the changes resulting from the move from tokens, paper and cash-based payment systems to open payment technology.

“Transit operators are looking for ways to accept bank-issued debit and credit cards and pre-paid cards.” says Vanderhoof. “Speed is an important factor for transit because passengers need to quickly get through the turnstiles and get loaded on buses. Over the last few years, we’ve seen the technology evolve from closed loop systems to open payment systems.”

Randy Vanderhoof, Smart Card Alliance Executive Director.

Most major U.S. metropolitan areas now have closed-loop, stored value contactless smart card-based AFC systems, which include Washington, D.C.; San Francisco; Oakland; Los Angeles; Chicago; San Diego; Seattle; Minneapolis; Houston; Boston; Philadelphia and Atlanta.

In addition to these transit-specific fare payment systems, transit agencies in the U.S. are moving to open bank card payments for fare payment at the point of entry to subways, trains and buses. In January 2009, the Utah Transit Authority implemented one of the first complete open bank card payment system for transit fare payment in the United States.

Transit operators in the New York–New Jersey region, MTA New York City Transit, Port Authority Trans Hudson (PATH) and New Jersey Transit collaborated on a pilot to test the concept of open payments on two subway lines, several connecting bus routes in New York, and bus routes and connecting service to the PATH system in New Jersey. Currently, transit agencies in numerous locations, including Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington, DC, Dallas, and Toronto are actively pursuing open payment solutions.  BR