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Strategic Analysis of Open Fare Payment Systems (This RNS was funded with modified scope as TCRP J-6/Task 83)

  1. Title: Strategic Analysis of Open Fare Payment Systems


  1. Research Problem Statement 

Review and establish a baseline state-of-practice and array of technologies for “open” fare payment systems (OFPS).  Identify and classify different approaches to OFPS, and document industry trends.  Explicitly identify and critically evaluate goals and motivations for adopting OFPS.  Enumerate, qualitatively and quantitatively if possible, the costs and benefits of each approach, based on identified goals and motivations.  Assess different institutional setups, their associated issues, and factors transit agencies will want to consider when setting up new institutions to administer OFPS.  Appraise the impact of OFPS on fare policy and transit access by low-income groups.  Provide an honest assessment of the future of OFPS, provide different recommendations for “ways forward”, and define alternative implementation paths for agencies considering OFPS.


  1. Objective 

Creation of a resource book that will serve as an industry reference for methods, strategies, and technologies that transit systems have proposed or adopted for OFPS.  The aim is to create a work of reference that does not prescribe a single solution but instead guides and empowers practitioners to consider OFPS issues and approaches based on their local situation and philosophy, that can be embraced and adopted by multi-modal transit systems and long-distance surface transportation carriers in the United States and potentially elsewhere in the world.


  1. Research Need/Goals

Fare payment technologies have evolved from paper tickets and tokens to magnetic stripe cards and smart cards. Latest developments include the implementation of open payment systems, including mobile phones, credit cards, and other implementations of near-field communication and radio frequency identification technologies. What are the different OFPS approaches, their features, advantages and disadvantages? What are the implementation issues and customer acceptance?


  1. Estimate of the Problem Funding and Research Period

Recommended Funding: $450,000

Research Period: 24 months


  1. Urgency and Payoff Potential

Advances in open payment systems and technologies are accelerating with unprecedented speed. Transit agencies need guidance now on available technologies and business models for next generation fare collection systems. Given the long lead time and capital intensiveness of these technologies the payoff and potential savings are considerable.


  1. Relationship to FTA Strategic Goals and TCRP Strategic Priorities

This research problem statement supports all of the TCRP Strategic Priorities and is consistent with FTA Strategic Goal (2) Support Improving the Performance of Transit Operations and System.

Sponsoring Committee:AP030, Public Transportation Marketing and Fare Policy
Source Info:The research problem statement was peer reviewed by members and friends of the AP030, Marketing and Fare Policy Committee and is being submitted on behalf of the committee.
Lead Author:
Lexcie Lu
Transit Analyst
(646) 252-5664
Date Posted:03/26/2012
Date Modified:03/15/2013
Index Terms:Fare collection, State of the practice, Handbooks, Technological innovations, Smart cards, Radio frequency identification,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Public Transportation
Data and Information Technology
Passenger Transportation

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