The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PATH) have been conducting pioneering work on a standard for contactless fare collection. Last week (October 19, 2004), officials conducted an interoperability test to demonstrate the ability of various ISO 14443 compliant contactless technology to function running their evolving standard. The public trial was held in San Francisco using a series of cards and readers from different vendors, testing each one’s ability to perform a different type of fare setup. Though there were some slight differences in performance between the tested products, all of the cards and readers proved interoperable–a major achievement in a market where the technology’s interoperability is frequently in question.
The standard being developed by PATH is called the Regional Interoperability Standard for Electronic Fare Payments (RIS), currently version 3.5 (RISv3.5). The project will bring contactless fare payments to the New York region, an area that moves 13 million riders each day.
Walt Bonneau, Principal Consultant with Three Point Consulting, conducted the interoperability test. He is an active contributor to the RIS effort as well as vice-chairman of the B10 working group for contactless standardization within ANSI/ISO. According to Mr. Bonneau, “APTA (the American Public Transportation Association) accepted RIS as the basis for all transit fare standards one year ago.” This means that APTA’s Universal Transit Fare Specification (UTFS) will be created in conjunction with RIS as a U.S. specification so that individual cities will not need to select between competing standards.
So how did the interoperability test go? Quite well. There were about 100 people present at the event (including ContactlessNews editorial staff) to witness the trials. The specific tests included:
- one ISO 14443 A microprocessor cards,
- two ISO 14443 B microprocessor cards, and
- two ISO 14443 A memory/wired logic cards.
The cards were not identified by the manufacturer but the list of manufacturers was provided. They included Philips, ERG, ASK, and Infineon.
Each card was tested using four separate readers, one each from ERG, ASK, Ascom, and Artemis.
Finally, cards and readers were tested using several different fare types – each an option within the RIS standard. These included:
- Time-based pass with anti-passback functionality
- Limited use paper ticket with trip-based pass
- Agency trip-based pass with transfers
- Regional T-Purse (Transportation Purse)
Under each of the scenarios, every card tested performed as intended with each reader. There were differences in the transaction times required to complete the transaction, however, each performed with the window of time deemed acceptable.
According to Mr. Bonneau, “350 milliseconds (ms) is the maximum acceptable time window from when the card enters the (reader’s) field to gate opening. And many in transit industry like 300 ms.” Times during the trial ranged from a low of 88 ms to a high of 225 ms – all well under the acceptable limits.
The test was a true success for the both the RIS standard and ISO 14443 technology. To date, many interoperability tests conducted using ISO 14443 A and B cards and readers from different vendors proved less than positive. This trial, however, suggests that the work of the industry toward true interoperability is working – and, as well, that a tightly defined application standard can help foster this interoperability.