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Electronic Fare Collection

July 21, 2016


Delivering Speed Through Rider Technology

Massachusetts Department of Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack stated, “Much of what people want in their lives is time. We can give people their time back by making their commute reliable.” In an effort to reduce the time it takes for riders to board and pay fares, many transit providers including MassDOT are experimenting with digital fares paid through mobile apps.

MassDOT currently uses the CharlieCard, a reusable, rechargeable smart card that stores value for single or multiple-rides and/or a T-pass, and often passes along discounts based on rider frequency. MBTA officials stated they are planning to completely phase out cash fare payments on buses and trains, encouraging riders to use mobile phones, credit cards and new CharlieCards instead. This planned change is still two-years out, however, and subject to approval by MBTA’s fiscal control board.

Bus Plus App ScreenThe benefits of electronic fare collection are obvious. By eliminating cash fares, riders are boarding faster and there is less administrative labor for counting, verifying and managing cash fare boxes. There are many service providers offering digital fare apps, many of which can be easily downloaded for free to a smart phone via the iTunes® or Google Play™ app stores. One company, New-York-based Bytemark, provides the MassDOT BusPlus+ app which allows riders to find and purchase tickets for a variety of New England bus and coach providers, including regional Transportation Management Associations (TMA) and their shuttle routes.

Although electronic fare boxes and smart cards are the first steps toward moving away from cash-based fares, mobile apps are by far the most efficient. Apps allow users to recharge their account right within the app, making it as seamless and efficient as possible to manage and check fare balance without having to use a vending machine or other device. Establishing a cashless fare system is challenging in many cities, however, MBTA is incentivized to reduce expense and overhead of on-bus fare collection boxes (costing $30,000 each) and vending machines (costing $45,000 each) and moving to this type of fare collection technology will reduce these types of overhead costs.



Have questions about implementing better technology for your ridership? Contact us with your questions or call us at 781-895-1100.



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