MBTA taps Cubic-John Laing consortium for next-gen fare collection system

Posted on November 22, 2017

Under the new system, MBTA customers will be able to pay fares by tapping debit and credit cards at fare gates and fare boxes.
Under the new system, MBTA customers will be able to pay fares by tapping debit and credit cards at fare gates and fare boxes.

Taking a major step toward a new system that will simplify fare collection and improve the delivery of transit services, the MBTA's Fiscal and Management Control Board voted to award a multi-year contract to the consortium of Cubic-John Laing for the design, integration, and implementation of a new Automated Fare Collection (AFC) system.

Known as AFC 2.0, the new system has a total program value, for capital and operating costs, of approximately $723 million, which includes operating costs through 2031. MBTA customers will begin to experience the first elements of the new system late in 2019. Full implementation will occur by mid-2020 followed by a retirement of the existing system in 2021.

"As the first public-private partnership for the MBTA, this method will allow a major customer service improvement to advance in a cost-effective manner," said MassDOT Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack. "The contract structure for AFC 2.0 is a crucial component of this project because it serves as a method to deliver the project, to finance it, and to free up our own internal resources to focus on other critical MBTA efforts."

"This isn’t just the next generation of fare collection, but an entirely new way that our customers will interact with the MBTA," said MBTA GM Luis Manuel Ramírez. "The new system will be compatible with all modes, will provide more options for paying fares, and will have more fare media available for use. To be clear, we still have much work ahead of us to involve our customers, stakeholders, and members of the community to ensure we all realize the benefits of the new system. But today is a major step forward in our partnership with the Cubic-John Laing team to completely transform and modernize our system of fare collection."

AFC 2.0 is moving forward under a public-private partnership model with incentives for the contractor to ensure the infrastructure is operational, with risk-sharing agreements for the financing, and requires the contractor to perform system maintenance over the 10-year agreement.

Under the new system, MBTA customers will be able to pay fares by tapping debit and credit cards at fare gates and fare boxes. The new system will also allow for the use of mobile phones through which customers can use apps such as Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay. In addition, the system includes a contactless fare card, similar to the existing CharlieCard.

The new system will also allow all-door boarding on the Green Line and on buses. Additionally, accessible fare gates will be five inches wider than the current gates; standard fare gates will be seven inches wider.

Benefits of the new system include:

  • Faster buses and Green Line trains: With shorter lines and reduced boarding times, buses and Green Line trains will have reduced “dwell times.”
  • Tap everywhere: The ability to tap and board the same way on all buses, trains, commuter rail, and ferries.
  • Use of smartphone or contactless credit card: Travel without a fare card by tapping with contactless credit cards or smartphones. Even if customers tap with a smartphone, they will be able to reload using cash.
  • Pay before boarding more easily: Get a new fare card or reload at fare vending machines located in all subway stations and at some bus stops, as well as select retail locations.
  • Account management: Customers can check their balances, access travel history, reload or replace a lost card online, or by phone through the MBTA’s call center.
  • Accessibility improvements: The entire system will be designed for a broad range of accessibility needs, by user experience specialists. And the website and mobile app will be compliant with digital accessibility guidelines.

Of utmost importance to the MBTA is protecting each customer’s personally identifiable information (PII), and the necessary protections will be incorporated into the design of the new system. Mobility information will be separated from PII so an individual’s transit trip cannot be linked to that person unless the customer gives his/her permission. The privacy requirements embedded in the MBTA’s new fare collection system are above and beyond the industry standard.

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