January 8, 2014

Accenture to equip D.C. Metro with electronic fare payment

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (Metro) will begin testing a new electronic payment program after awarding Accenture a $184 million contract to replace the existing fare collection systems for Metrorail, Metro-operated parking facilities, Metrobus and MetroAccess services.

The new system will let Metro customers continue to use SmarTrip cards, while expanding fare payment to chip-enabled credit cards, federal government ID cards, and mobile phones using near field communications (NFC).

“While Metro pioneered the tap and go system we currently use, by today’s standards that system is cumbersome and the technology is not sustainable,” said Metro GM/CEO Richard Sarles. “The new technology will provide more flexibility for accounts; better reliability for riders; and real choices for customers to use bank-issued payment cards, credit cards, ID cards or mobile phones to pay their Metro fares.”

Accenture has successfully implemented similar technology in Canada and the Netherlands.

RELATED: "Report: 1 in 8 to use NFC tech by 2016"

Later this year, Accenture will run a pilot program to test the new system in 10 Metrorail stations, aboard 50 branded-route Metrobuses and in two parking lots. Additionally, 2,000 Metro riders will be selected to participate in the pilot to test the performance and reliability of the new system.

Similarly, fare vending machines will have large, intuitive, multilingual displays and be fully ADA-compliant. Onboard Metrobus, there will be a new target for customers to tap and MetroAccess customers will be able to validate their trips using the driver’s smartphone and the customer’s ID card.

Metro anticipates lower ongoing maintenance costs as a result of the more modern, component-based technology. Travel transactions and fare calculations will be performed by a central data system that is easier to maintain and manage. In addition, a sophisticated equipment monitoring system to manage maintenance and repair functions will support higher equipment up-time for customers.

When fully deployed, customers will see approximately 1,000 fare gates, 450 fare vending machines, approximately 1,500 bus payment targets, approximately 160 new payment targets at parking exit lanes and approximately 600 NEPP-compatible smartphones for MetroAccess operators. 

The new system will not accept paper tickets and Metro will continue the gradual phasing out of paper fare media. Today, less than one in 10 Metrorail riders pay for their trip with a paper farecard.

RELATED: "Passengers Seek More Ways to Pay Fares"

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