March 16, 2009
|IN DEPTH: FARE COLLECTION TECHNOLOGIES
Q Card: The State of the Art
Where better to hold a fare collection workshop than Houston, where—when you’re talking about public transportation—it’s all about the METRO Q Fare Card. The introduction of this state-of-the-art, contactless smart card-based fare collection system by the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (Houston METRO) has changed the way transit passengers ride; it has also changed the method for collecting fares and processing data—both of which have never been easier.
With this new technology in place, METRO has reduced its previous 65 fare media payment options to just two: the Q Fare Card or cash.
The Q Card offers customers such new benefits as a bonus of five free trips for every 50 paid fares. Cardholders have the option of registering their card to protect the balance in case the card is lost or stolen.
In addition, riders can reload their cards in a variety of places, such as independent retailers, METRO’s RideStore in downtown Houston, the customer information center, and social agencies; they can also use METRO’s web site.
METRO’s retail network includes 303 stores in the greater Houston area, all of which sell the Q Cards under contract with METRO and process reloads through the use of the agency’s Retail Point of Sell equipment.
Another avenue of revenue from the METRO Q Fare Card is the RideSponsor program. A RideSponsor is a company that subsidizes its employees’ transportation fare; the 132 companies now participating in the program include Chevron, the city of Houston, Methodist Hospital, El Paso Corporation, and Kellogg Brown & Root.
RideSponsors use METRO’s web site to manage and reload employee cards through automatic subscriptions or directed loads. Customers can access the web system at any time to reload money on their METRO Q Fare Cards, using either credit or debit payment media.
To support this new fare collection system, METRO installed approximately 2,600 pieces of revenue equipment, which maintains a 95 percent up-time service level.
Frank Wilson, METRO’s president and chief executive officer, called the introduction of the METRO Q Card program “an unprecedented success.” He also pointed to the positive results of the transit agency’s simplified fare structure.