Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thoughts on open payment

First of all, one will probably accuse me of having an agenda in this matter. There's no need to accuse - just use the search function. I have been a big supporter of the PRESTO card from its concept stages for various reasons which I've written about many times before. I don't see open payment (using an RFID-enabled debit card, credit card or a surrogate like a bank account-linked cell phone or a watch) as a competitor, as it fulfills the same goal - eliminating the need to carry tickets and transfers for multiple transit agencies. In fact, my dream is to see every transit entry-point in the GTHA have a hybrid reader that accepts both PRESTO and open payment cards. But, I do have some questions about open payment cards that need answering.

The pilot project in New York City and in New Jersey placed readers on buses running on specific routes and at specific subway and rail stations. However, there is no evidence that the ability to transfer from route to route was evaluated. On the MTA in New York, a Metrocard (their re-loadable smart card) user with a pay-as-you-go account can transfer from route to route and get a discount on the second leg, subject to the fare rules. This is the same for PRESTO and SmarTrip, the other cards I've used. However, the MTA / NJ Transit trial makes no mention of this ability. Is this because the ability to transfer was left out of the trial, or because the technology cannot accommodate this?

In other words, is open payment a way to replace tickets and transfers in addition to period passes or is it simply a new way to pay your initial fare?

If the answer is something other than "the first one" then I fear that we have not taken any steps forward - we've moved sideways at best.



At 9/24/2010 10:30 p.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find the TTC's actions hilarious and childish. For years and years the TTC used paper tickets and metropasses. As soon as Presto started rolling out the TTC decided this was the perfect time to start looking for a new way for riders to pay their fares, comparable to other world class cities. Despite the contracts with the province and the fact that they have Presto in a few stations, they wanted to do it their own way. Why didn't they think about this years ago? I mean the Oyster card in England rolled out in 2003. What was the TTC waiting for all these years? I guess to look like a hero? It just appears that they want to leap five steps ahead from where they currently stand because everyone else is doing it. Way to be a leader, TTC.

It boggles my mind that the TTC can acquire someone to have the system rolled out in less than a year while the province took years to get it rolling.

If the TTC wants to waste their money on installing a new card reader beside a Presto reader then they can go ahead, but I would love to see how flawless their roll-out would be.

There are many security issues that I feel would need to be addressed with open payment systems. For one, using your credit card to tap on just screams fraud (stolen credit cards can be used with verification) and more importantly, a pretty bill at the end of the month (which can lead to consumer debt, etc).

I highly doubt that the TTC has thought about transfers, and discounted fares as the month goes on, etc. I mean, they are too busy trying to convince critics that this is a good idea.

Lastly, what is the biggest thing that transit nerds collect as they travel to other cities? fare cards! What do I get from Toronto? Oh...this old fashion transfer that I don't understand and...oh just my credit card. Exciting.


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