CDTA teams with Genfare to revamp fare collection
In January, the Albany, N.Y.-based Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA) officially moved into the next wave in fare collection with Genfare when it launched its smart card pre-payment system, Navigator.
“CDTA is the first implementation of Genfare Link, and riders are now able to purchase fares through multiple channels —the agency office, retail locations throughout Albany, as well as through Genfare Link’s rider portal, eFare,” explains Genfare’s President Darren Dickson. “[The agency’s] Navigator system allows passengers to purchase passes at their convenience from any internet-enabled device. Riders can purchase their fare products anonymously as a guest or through a personal registered account.”
The move to an account-based system enables the rider to create a personal account online and reload passes, manage multiple passes and account details, set up automatic renewal programs, replace lost or stolen passes, and show usage detailing their rides and purchases. Navigator is optimized for use on any computer, tablet, and mobile device.
“It’s part of a continuum of change that we’ve been on for a number of years, which revolves around providing customers with the services and products they want and need,” says CDTA CEO Carm Basile about the fare collection upgrade. “The reaction thus far has been consistently positive, and every day dozens of our customers are making the switch and registering a Navigator smart card.”
Thomas Guggisberg, director, information technology, for CDTA explains the agency’s previous system didn’t offer a lot of capabilities and was often confusing for customers since the agency offered up to 15 different products.
“We had a lot of different choices and it wasn’t always clear what was best for them,” he explains. “So, when we wanted to upgrade, we wanted to get the latest and greatest technology with an upgraded farebox, but we also wanted to streamline and simplify the fare products and choices for the customer.”
The streamlined system now offers two products — a pay-as-you-go offering and a monthly pass called “Frequent Rider” — and allows the customer to pay using cash, a smart card, or soon, a mobile ticket.
“CDTA is currently offering a free ride to their customers after 10 paid rides, and Genfare Link allows agencies to customize the specific terms of the bonus program, however they see fit,” says Dickson. “CDTA has also chosen to implement Genfare Link’s ‘best fare’ program, which allows the system to recognize when the value of individual rides purchased by a rider has reached the value of a day pass. Once the price of a day pass is met, the rider’s pass is converted to a day pass and can be used for the remainder of the day at no additional charge.”
The agency piloted Navigator for quite some time before launch, with Guggisberg explaining that the customer-facing web interface was one of the most challenging aspects of the project.
“We really wanted it to be as simple as possible,” he says. “Most transactions on the customer-facing website have five or fewer steps, and most of the things that customers do is just three steps. That took a lot of work. We didn’t want them to go through multiple steps or screens or to answer a lot of questions, we wanted to keep it as simple and quick as possible.”
Guggisberg says the next step for CDTA will be to introduce mobile ticketing, which it put off until it was able to have an integrated component to the smart card.
“Now, when the mobile ticketing component launches, customers will be able to put money on their smart card and it will also be available on their mobile device as well,” he says.
Further down the road, Guggisberg adds that next frontier is to bring real-time capabilities to the fare payment process.
“Right now, there is a 24- to 48-hour delay between performing an online transaction and those funds registering on your fare card,” he says. “We’re working toward making it a real-time upload of information, which will require cellular modems on every one of the buses. We’re also working toward enabling customers to pay for their fare using a credit card. Ideally, we’ll start testing both of those capabilities around 2019, 2020.”
The Rapid moving to INIT account-based smart cards, mobile ticketing
In April, the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Interurban Transit Partnership (The Rapid) contracted with INIT, Innovations in Transportation Inc., for the implementation of an electronic fare collection system.
The contract between INIT and The Rapid calls for the execution of an account-based smart card and mobile-ticketing solution that will improve The Rapid’s service offerings on its fixed-route lines. One-hundred-fifty fixed-route vehicles will be equipped with INIT’s PROXmobil3 onboard validators to support multiple forms of payment, including smart cards, and mobile tickets, with EMV credit card payments set to be added over time. The project also includes 34 platform-mounted fare validators on The Rapid’s Silver Line BRT system.
One of INIT’s innovations they recently developed and are implementing on most of its recent projects are account-based systems, explains Marc Gillman, manager, customer support at INIT.
“In the past, fare collection systems have been card-based, but the idea behind the account-based system is all the processing happens on the back end,” he says. “So, when a person comes onto a bus, they have their smart card or mobile ticket and they scan or tap their card against the INIT PROXmobil3, it will send the transaction request to the back office in real-time, and then, the back office will make the determination of the fare, or if the card is accepted or rejected, in real time.”
One highlight of moving to an account-based system is it enables customers to always receive the most favorable fare for them through fare capping.
“Fare capping ensures that passengers never pay more for transport than is necessary,” says Jan Lesser, business development manager for INIT. “This is especially important for the unbanked as it allows all the benefits of long term passes without the need for a large initial payment. You can reach a monthly pass one ride at a time; so it really allows users to pay as they go.”
Gillman adds that another feature of the account-based system is it streamlines operation, particularly with the interaction between the bus drivers and passengers, enabling faster boardings, which can contribute to improved on-time performance for the agency.
To manage the back-end processing and clearing of revenues, The Rapid will utilize INIT’s MOBILEvario software solution. This all-inclusive clearing-house system will provide The Rapid with a powerful online fare validation server and management tool that will deliver the seamless administration of customer relations, setting of fare rules, revenue processing, and statistical evaluation reporting.
INIT has also recently moved to open API architecture, which enables the company to easily integrate with third parties, which it does at The Rapid, where their technology interfaces with Scheidt & Bachmann ticket-vending machines (TVMs) and Genfare fareboxes.
“The advantage of working with the APIs, for the agency, is that our back end is able to handle all that data and not require either redundancy or databases that won’t communicate with one another, so they’re in a better position to be more efficient,” says Lesser. “Going forward, the agency will be able to have better information for both operations and how to modify and improve their system.”
Miami-Dade upgrades smart card system to leverage cloud-based tech
In August, Cubic Transportation Systems (CTS) was awarded a $33 million contract from the Miami-Dade County Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTPW) to modernize the Cubic-supplied EASY Card revenue management system and provide 10 years of back office cloud computing and support services.
The award includes the deployment of Cubic’s contactless bankcard and Near Field Communications mobile open-payment technology, as well as upgrades to fare terminals and the EASY Card back office to process account-based transactions for new and easy ways to pay.
The contract supports DTPW’s mission to provide more payment options and a richer customer experience to its demographics, including regular commuters, occasional riders, tourists, and visitors to the Miami area. These technology upgrades will complement and enhance the existing EASY Card system, delivered by Cubic in 2009, for the department, which has average daily boardings of approximately 316,000 on Metrobus, Metrorail, Metromover, and its Special Transportation Service.
“By working closely with Cubic, we were able to move to a cloud-based solution, which allows us to provide flexibility, get us away from the limited offerings we were able to provide our customers, and give us the ability to expand the fare payment system across the entire region,” says Rosie Perez, division director, transportation technology, IT department for DTPW.
“We are in a period of substantial change in how mobility payments, in general, are done,” adds Boris Karsch, VP, strategy, for CTS about the benefits of moving to a cloud-based system. “If you look at how fast the industry is changing, whether through transportation networks or the desire for agencies to integrate other modes, such as bikeshares, flexibility, and scalability is a characteristic that our customers are asking us to provide, and cloud provides that by default.”
DTPW is working to roll out its upgraded fare payment system in stages, with its eye set to have it running at its full capabilities by the fall and the whole account-based and back office system in place by the end of 2017, although an end date has not yet been finalized.
Karsch adds the relationship formed with Miami, and all of its customers, has allowed it to deliberately move toward a more customer-centric approach.
“We are always extremely pleased when we have customer partners like Miami that progressively think about new contracting and engagement models that make our partnership more productive, in terms of the outcomes that need to be achieved for the end-user, or the public the system has to serve,” he explains. “The future of mobility is one where many more partners need to work together, so we are seeing an increase in collaboration among customers, vendors and other industry partnerships forming. Connectivity is really what enables the new user experience and connectivity also comes with people being able to connect and work together.”
Masabi brings mobile ticketing to small, mid-sized transit agencies
After getting its start in the UK rail market, Masabi first entered North America in 2012 when it deployed a successful pilot of its JustRide mobile fare-payment app for Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority commuter rail line.
“Today, more than 60 percent of the single-ride tickets sold for Boston’s rail line are purchased using our app,” explains Jonathan Donovan, head of products for Masabi. “That is really huge penetration and shows the real demand consumers have for making ticketing easier and more accessible.”
Donovan adds that he feels the software-as-a-service concept is just beginning to emerge in transit, particularly as it pertains to fare collection where systems are often bought on 10- to 15-year cycles.
“It’s really hard to decide that you’re going to buy something now and that it will still be ideal 10 years on,” he says. “Our approach is by providing a platform that an agency can subscribe to, that we host, manage, and deploy, it will continue to evolve as the landscape evolves as well. What that really enables is a much more responsive technology capability than agencies have typically had access to in the past.”
In January, Masabi announced its new JustRide Express offering, which is designed for small- and mid-sized transit agencies and private operators.
JustRide Express provides agencies with a custom-branded mobile fare-payment app, allowing customers to quickly and securely purchase and display tickets on their smartphones. The solution also includes JustRide Express Hub — a secure cloud-based back office system, providing real-time data, reporting, and analytics, as well as customer service tools. The service is available for $1,999 a month with a range of optional extras available.
“You have the same technology, scalability, power, and flexibility, but by standardizing it a little bit in terms of the options available, we’ve been able to be very transparent with the price,” says Donovan. “It’s really bringing a fully-capable mobile-ticketing platform to agencies that typically wouldn’t have the budget to do a custom-build of this type of technology.”
The Las Vegas-based Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) recently partnered with Masabi to launch its new smartphone app, rideRTC, which enables transit customers to buy fares, plan trips, and find bus stops.
To assist customers with their transit trip planning, rideRTC is integrated with the industry leading TransitApp. The app enables users to locate transit routes and stops near their current location; access upcoming arrival times for bus routes; determine real-time location of buses; and plan trips that also include different forms of transportation, such as the new RTC Bike Share program in downtown Las Vegas and transportation network companies, like Uber and Lyft.