February 16, 2009
Affordable Smart Card Reader Technology
By TAMARA HALBRITTER
According to the Smart Card Alliance: “Since the late 1990s, 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) and use contactless smart cards as the primary fare medium.”
However, many small public transit agencies have not had the opportunity to take advantage of this technology because of its high cost. Until recently, agencies were limited to a few propriety choices of equipment.
As payment media have evolved from cash to magnetic fare media to contactless smart cards, demand has increased, resulting in more affordable system technology.
Now, transit agencies of any size have the option to deploy a stand-alone, smart card-based AFC system or integrate their fare collection operations with larger regional transportation programs.
An interoperable smart card reader system allows paratransit and small transit agencies to expand their service into larger areas. It also gives agencies the ability to carefully track ridership, better manage data, and make more informed decisions for planning purposes:
* Data management. Agencies can collect ridership and service performance data, quickly upload data to a PC, and store it in a database. Staff can also download configuration information and new fare policies to the system.
* Reporting. The back-end system often includes standard or custom reports, which give agencies an excellent way to evaluate information for operational assessments and potential modifications to business rules and fare policies.
* Global Positioning Satellite system information. Agencies can integrate the smart card system with new or existing GPS equipment. This allows them to add location information to usage reports for enhanced service planning.
* Smart card management. Since each card within the system requires a unique serial number, agencies can track card usage; add fare products; modify access rights as necessary in the event that a card is lost, stolen, or no longer valid (hotlisting); and provide balance protection options to the rider.
* Card fulfillment and distribution. Transit agencies can set up point-of-sale terminals at their offices or other facilities. The smart card reader connects to a PC, where a transit employee selects which fare products to load onto the card and inputs customer information for card registration. Agencies can request cards pre-encoded with dollar values, and rely on a vendor for telephone and web-based fulfillment options.
One example of a smart card reader designed specifically for use by small transit agencies is the contactless AcuFare 100TM Smart Card Reader System developed by Acumen Transit.
The system accepts various fare types and configuration information that correspond to the agency’s specific needs and operating requirements.