Ticket to ride

Transit agencies deploy flexible, multifunctional SPX Genfare Vendstar TVMs to move millions of passengers quickly and grow systems efficiently

Whether agencies are running established bus operations or developing new systems, technology advances and rider trends along with budget pressures and funding options can impact decisions at every turn.

Helping agencies stay ahead of the curve has long been a forte of industry leader SPX Genfare (www.genfare.com), Elk Grove Village, IL, beginning with its fare collection systems and products including ticket vending machines (TVMs), which it began making in the late 1980s. Since then, SPX Genfare’s versatile and highly functional Vendstar® series has gained a notable following nationwide.

DART’s Genfare TVMs help handle much higher short-term “spikes” in ridership for special events such as the three-week State Fair of Texas at Fair Park, or when the Texas Longhorns take on archrival Oklahoma Sooners.
DART’s Genfare TVMs help handle much higher short-term “spikes” in ridership for special events such as the three-week State Fair of Texas at Fair Park, or when the Texas Longhorns take on archrival Oklahoma Sooners.

“It’s all about enabling agencies to deliver the best transportation option for their customers, with the funds they have available,” says SPX Genfare President Kim Green. “Our system and equipment offerings as well as the customers we serve reflect our long-time focus on North American transit needs. When it comes to public transportation, we sometimes do things differently here than the rest of the world. An equipment provider’s global experience doesn’t necessarily translate into a plus for U.S. agencies. North American experience is the true differentiator.”

Green notes that while some manufacturers concentrate on major metro subway operations, SPX Genfare works with systems of all sizes – a broad spectrum of Light Rail (LRT) and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) operations across the country – and bus companies looking to economically expand local ticket distribution.

Genfare customers currently employ as few as two and as many as 180 Vendstar-3® TVMs, the latter number in the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) system, which operates America’s longest light rail line in Texas.

Customizable for current and future BRT and transit needs
“We help agencies customize fare budget programs by building on a proven product,” Green says. “It can be configured with different hardware options along with advanced software to provide a full range of ticket payment and dispensing methods.”

From simple credit card and debit transactions with ticket and smart card dispensing to a full-featured Vendstar-3 with multiple options, this self-service TVM is tailorable to agency-specific requirements. It can accept cash payments which include bills and coins, along with credit or debit cards and give back change when needed.

However many ticketing options an agency chooses, this can be changed and updated as you go.

“Agencies don’t want (nor can they afford) to continually purchase new equipment,” he says. “The flexibility designed into Vendstar TVMs lets them efficiently provide the exact kind of service passengers want for years to come.”

For agencies wanting to extend customer-friendly ticket distribution, adding TVMs in downtown areas, central business districts or other strategic route locations offers an efficient solution. Some operators, Green says, roll in TVMs with farebox procurements. While basic TVM benefits resonate with buyers, he notes that Vendstar “system” aspects often resonate even more.

State-of-the-art security
All transactions and payments, whether cash or electronic, are stored in physically secure devices, and tracked by the transit property: How much was paid, when it was paid – all money that comes in or goes out in change – and all tickets that are issued.

Concurrently, instant real-time updates on this Vendstar activity are being sent to the agency Operation Center. Details on every ticketing transaction, everywhere in the system, as they happen, are constantly being sent back to a central location.

Only tickets that are issued have value; ticket stock in TVMs is not pre-encoded. If someone breaks in, they would steal worthless cards. That break-in would be instantly noted at the Op Center, too, via Vendstar-3 connectivity features. It informs operators if the TVM door is open, if cash is getting low, and much more.

Vendstar-e® ticketing TVMs going into service
As more transit agencies move into electronic ticketing and smartcard systems, SPX Genfare is at the forefront with Vendstar-e®. This compact unit is slightly smaller than Vendstar-3. The primary difference, however, is that the newer machine neither accepts nor gives out cash.

Green says a number of Vendstar-e units are slated for several transit systems this year.

Although Vendstar-e units can be incorporated into systems with Vendstar-3s, the function on existing machines can be made unavailable if users want to eliminate cash purchases.

Growing with cities and systems they serve
As previously noted, Vendstar TVMs can be upgraded from single to multifunctional machines, and units easily added with new lines.

Case in point: the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) system, which has partnered with Genfare since purchasing bus fareboxes in the mid-1980s. Since 2004, CENTSaBill fareboxes with Ticket Reader/Issue Machines (TRiMs) on its 650-bus fleet provide two- hour and one-day tickets with distance and other variables to passengers along 131 routes.

Vendstar-3 TVMs entered the picture in 2009, when 25 units became part of what is now America’s longest Light Rail Train system.

DART’s Vendstar-3 TVMs now number 180, accepting cash and credit cards for two-hour, day-long, weekly and monthly magnetic stripe passes.

“The ability to vend multiple ticket types through machines at our platforms is a key component of making riding transit easy,” says David Leininger, DART executive vice president and chief financial officer. “One of the most significant improvements has been the ability to use credit cards. This gives customers greater flexibility and control over transit pass purchases.”

Average weekday DART fixed-route ridership was 232,299 during 2013, with TVMs helping handle much higher numbers during the State Fair of Texas, University of Texas football games and other special events. As LRT service expands, its share of total DART passenger volume is also expected to grow.

“As transit systems of all sizes face new challenges, versatile Vendstar TVMs and other Genfare technologies will provide new ways for agencies to meet them,” Green says.