MTA Ready To Build Contactless Fare Pay System

The MTA knows all about being behind in terms of technology. One of those ways happens to be with the lack of a contactless fare payment system being in place as seen in other cities. Last June, the agency teamed with New Jersey Transit, PATH, & Mastercard on a 6 month Smart Card pilot program which saw such a system implemented on select bus routes & subway stations.

The pilot ended this past November with no word about its future. However yesterday, word came out that the agency is ready to build out the system. DTN has more in this report:

After about four years of testing, the New York City area’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority is beginning the process of building a fare-payment system based on general-purpose contactless cards. MTA officials tell Digital Transactions News that they plan to publish a so-called Concept of Operations, a document outlining the agency’s broad plans that would help vendors develop formal proposals. That document is expected to be available for review soon, though the agency hasn’t given an exact date.

“Once we finish our industry-outreach activities, we will begin the process of turning that into technical requirements and move into high-level system design, and then detailed system design,” an MTA spokesperson tells Digital Transactions News by e-mail. “We expect to issue an RFP [request for proposals] this year to enable us to identify a systems integrator. One of their tasks will be to work with us to do the detailed design.”

The program will be centered on using general-purpose, contactless credit, debit, and prepaid cards and other media based on the ISO 1443 contactless technology standard. That would include contactless fobs that already come with some payment cards, and stickers that attach to cell phones.

“Our fare-collection systems at our railroads are currently not interoperable with the subway/bus fare-payments system,” the spokesperson says. “We’d like to implement a single system that would enable our customers to use the same card or device to pay the fare on the New York City subway, buses in New York City and environs, the Long Island Rail Road, and Metro-North Railroad.” Planners also are considering making their new fare system capable of reloading E-ZPass accounts, which enable drivers to make cashless toll-highway payments in many Eastern states.

The MTA has not yet set a budget for the new fare project. “We’ll begin to develop cost estimates based on the [Concept of Operations], and continue to refine them as we move through design,” the spokesperson says.

In all likelihood, the new system won’t be cheap. The MetroCard system cost about $750 million in total, according to consultant Peter Quadagno, a former MTA official who had product-management duties for the card when it launched.

Click here for the complete report.

It is a shame that it took this long for the agency to get the ball rolling on technology that has long been available. Besides the initial concern about cost, I hope that by time a system is in place, the technology used is not nearly or completely outdated. I hope to find out more as time goes on.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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