June 22, 2009
|APTA RAIL CONFERENCE COVERAGE
Advances in Fare Collection Technology Presented
BY MARTIN SCHROEDER, Senior Program Manager-Rail Programs
The key question at the June 16 session “Fare Collection Technology Reaches Adolescence” was: Is fare collection technology mature or still in need of training wheels?
Tim Weisenberger, electronic payments program manager with the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center and the session’s moderator, opened with this question, then followed with a timeline of how far the industry has come. At this heavily attended session, panel members provided a thorough look at technology, standards, system implementation, payment and international cooperation that together are defining a myriad of fare system design options.
David Weir, Translink senior program coordinator for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in Oakland, CA, provided an overview of Translink’s smart card-based fare collection system, which now integrates 26 transit agencies in the San Francisco Bay area. In addition to traditional gated systems like the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District, Translink operates with proof-of-payment processes in use with Caltrain commuter trains; future plans are underway for incorporating parking products that will use the Smartlink card.
On-board commuter fare collection and inspection was also the topic of David Kutrosky, deputy managing director of the Capital Corridor Joint Powers Authority in Oakland. The system can use wireless communication to issue and validate Amtrak tickets on board, using 100 percent fare inspection with hand-held devices. This technology generated extensive discussion.
Standards development—including application of the APTA Contactless Fare Media System standard and ISO’s international standards—were addressed by Brian Stein, sales manager with Giesecke & Devrient America, and Chung Chung Tam, revenue systems engineer, Chicago Transit Authority. They discussed how U.S. and international efforts see mobile phones as an ideal platform for fare systems that leverage the flexibility of the phones while encouraging competition in the payments market to reduce transit transaction costs and expand patron choice.
Brian Zingg, senior vice president, business development, for Payspot, provided insight into alternative payment approaches using third-party reloadable debit systems such as e-Pay, which serves 34,000 retail locations nationwide. These systems reduce transaction processing costs from those associated with credit cards while minimizing use of cash.
A lively question-and-answer period followed the presentations, which painted a vivid picture of advances in fare collection technology. Is fare system design in a stage of adolescence? Maybe, but it’s looking more like a rebirth.