The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) expects to award a contract for its long-awaited contactless fare payments system this month, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
The $100 million system will enable some 3.9 million people in and around Philadelphia to use contactless credit or debit cards, as well as SEPTA smart cards and mobile phones, to pay for fares on buses, trolleys, trains and the subway.
SEPTA is planning a cautious three-year roll out for the system, according to the Inquirer. While most of the change involves simply swapping old turnstiles for new contactless readers, the Regional Rail fare system will experience the most drastic alterations, and will therefore by the last to introduce the new technology.
The rail fare system, which comprises 25% of SEPTA’s revenue, will require passengers to tap their cards twice – once when getting on, and again when getting off – to determine the correct fare, instead of just flashing a paper ticket at the turnstile. Additionally, the new system may call for the payment zones to be redrawn, and the matter of ticketing for out of town visitors and fare issues for travel between non-Center City stations still need to be resolved, reports the the Inquirer.
SEPTA will be the first large rail agency in the U.S. to switch to an open fare payments system, and the Authority hopes to not become “the prototype that reveals the bugs,” SEPTA advisory member Joseph Hacker told the Inquirer.
Another concern is the current lack of contactless credit and debit cards, with only 10% to 15% of the 750 million cards in the U.S. equipped with the technology, according to the Inquirer. However, the Smart Card Alliance projects that the number will leap to 75% by 2013, thanks largely to merchant incentives from Visa and demand provided by large transit projects such as this.
Three companies are still in the running for the contract: ACS Transport Solutions Group, Cubic Transportation Systems, or Scheidt & Bachmann.
Read more here.