March 16, 2009
|IN DEPTH: FARE COLLECTION TECHNOLOGIES
Virtual Sales Outlets Optimize, Simplify Fare Value Loading Process
New virtual sales technologies that allow public transportation users to load value onto their fare media without leaving their homes are a win-win for both the individual and the transit agency.
According to Sanford Weinberg, vice president, public transport fare collection, for ACS Transport Solutions Inc.: “This process reduces costs for distribution, and the cardholder can load the new value immediately—in your living room instead of having to go to a store. It works at a lower cost to the transit agency, which can operate with less equipment in the field.”
ACS introduced the virtual sales outlet concept in Lyon, France, in 2001. “Lyon wanted to provide more and better access to customers, better service at more locations,” Weinberg explained. “They considered expanding their ticket sales outlets, or expanding Internet access. They chose the latter.”
Travelers on the Lyon transit network can use this system to renew their season tickets without having to visit a sales office, completing the transaction in the office or at home, at any time of day or night.
The card updating process works like this. The first gate controller over which the card is swiped following the electronic transaction will transmit the new data to it—contactlessly, in the space of a few milliseconds. The cardholder no longer needs to present the card at a terminal or automatic distributor.
Since 2001, other transit agencies have adopted the same fare reloading principle as found in Lyon. In Venice, the cards update when holders pass the validators as they board a vehicle: a bus, trolley car, or vaporetto (water bus). Marseille, France, is preparing to introduce public online ticket sale terminals, which ACS will use on the city’s Metro system.
In Houston, where the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) adopted the ACS technology in 2006, employers participating in the RideSponsor program can use virtual sales for the benefit of the employees whose commutes they support. Employers access the online card recharging service on their employees’ behalf; the cards update when their holders pass the validators as they board Houston METRO vehicles.
“The virtual technology makes it easier for RideSponsors to participate and cuts down on their administrative costs,” Weinberg said. He added that this technology was responsible for 5 percent of Houston METRO reload transactions in 2008, but that those transactions accounted for 47 percent of total dollar value.