ITS Deployment Evaluation Executive Briefing: Advancements in Electronic Fare Payment Contactless and Open Loop Technologies
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ITS Deployment Evaluation Executive Briefing: Advancements in Electronic Fare Payment Contactless and Open Loop Technologies

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    Electronic fare payment (EFP) has long been used in the transit industry to facilitate fare collection. These systems, representing an advancement from mechanical or operator-based cash-only systems, can eliminate the need for travelers to have exact change when taking transit. They can also reduce operational costs for agencies, as cash is expensive to secure, transport, store, and count [1], [2]. The most traditional form of EFP has been “closed loop” stored-balance cards; well-known examples of these cards include the Bay Area’s Clipper Card, Seattle’s ORCA Card, the Washington DC area’s SmarTrip Card, and London’s Oyster Card. These cards are considered “closed loop” because they may only be used within their specific transit system. The increasing ubiquity of smartphones, mobile payment technologies such as Apple Pay and Google Pay, and innovations in credit card technology have led many transit agencies to begin experimenting with integrating “open loop” payment technologies into their systems [1], [3]. Open loop payment technology refers to payment methods that may be used to purchase things other than fares. For example, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) in New York City accepts RFID-enabled debit or credit cards at fare gates. Contactless payment systems use radio frequency identification (RFID) and/or near-field communication (NFC) technology to transfer payment information between a card or device and payment terminal without having to make physical contact with the payment terminal [4]. While contactless systems are not new in and of themselves—WMATA’s SmarTrip card, for example, is a contactless closed loop card—the development and wider adoption of contactless bank cards and mobile payments systems have made it possible to process travelers’ preexisting fare media more quickly and securely than before [3]. This movement is further supported through the adoption by transit agencies of account-based fare payment systems, in which transit balances are tied to traveler’s accounts through a back office, allowing more flexible management of fare media and payments while also enabling interoperability across diverse modes. Research and support for electronic fare payment systems, and generally multimodal payment integration (MPI), have been a focus of ongoing efforts by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Joint Program Office (JPO).
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