February 26, 2003 –
Global transit smart card leader ERG Group has reached agreement with six public transportation agencies for the establishment of a regional fare collection system covering Seattle and the Central Puget Sound area of Washington State. The six agencies include Community Transit, King County Metro Transit, Kitsap Transit, Pierce Transit, Sound Transit, and Washington State Ferries.
All contractual terms have been agreed, and the contract documents are to be executed following final approval from the boards of each of the transportation agencies. King County Metro Transit, the lead agency, will send the agreement for board approval in a fortnight. One of the operators, Community Transit, endorsed the agreement last week. The boards of the other agencies are expected to take action on the agreement by mid-March.
The contract is worth approximately US$63 million to ERG for the system implementation and management for a ten-year term once the system is operational. Work will commence on the project once all the agencies have approved the contract, with the first phase expected to be in live operation in approximately two years.
The project involves the design and implementation of a “seamless” smart card system across 2065 buses, and the commuter rail and ferry services throughout the region, as well as the fare card and services management for ten years after implementation. The tender was initiated by the agencies in order to establish a common fare system utilising smart cards in order to better coordinate their respective services and improve the availability, reliability, and convenience of public transportation.
The Seattle region collectively generates approximately 130 million passenger journeys per year and more than US$160 million in annual passenger revenues. It is expected that 400,000 smart cards will be initially issued on commencement of the project. Non-transit applications such as banking, retail and toll collection may be added to the cards at a later stage.
Mr Mike Nash, President of ERG’s North American operations, said: “ERG has built a position of strength on the US west coast with contracts in Seattle, San Francisco and Ventura County near Los Angeles. When added to our contracts in Las Vegas, Toronto and Washington DC, ERG has made its mark on the fare collection industry in North America.”
Cardholders will have a variety of means to purchase and load value on their cards, including both agency and third party retail outlets (such as convenience stores), by mail or over the telephone, at ticket vending machines and through the Internet. The convenience of “Autopay” will also be provided, whereby cards can be automatically revalued through a pre-authorised charge to a credit card or bank account, without any need for the cardholder to visit a revalue location.
ERG will use its San Francisco smart card Service Bureau to provide all of the required services including card issuance, management, maintenance and the clearing and settling of transactions. As such, it ideally complements the San Francisco transit smart card project and will produce significant operating synergies across both locations.
Mr Nash added: “We expect to see strong financial benefits to ERG and our customers from the use of a single service bureau to service multiple cities. We are not aware of any of our competitors having the proven capability to offer this solution to their customers.”
King County Executive, Ron Sims, said: “A regional ‘seamless’ fare system is a major step forward for users of mass transit. It will also give businesses, such as Boeing and Microsoft, which subsidise public transit for their employees, better information about their employee ridership. It provides accurate ridership data and makes the entire system more cost efficient.”
“We’re positioning ourselves to grow with this technology,” added Rick Walsh, General Manager of King County Metro Transit. “Other service providers can join our system in the future. As the smart card becomes more widely used, it can also be expanded to allow cardholders to pay for other services, such as parking, sundries or other municipal services. Eventually, the microchip with the transit information could be made more customer friendly by imbedding it in watches, key chains or other easily carried items for the convenience of the user.”