Metro has begun transitioning to a new fare collection system that will support smart card payment technology in the future. A smart card is a plastic card the size of a credit card that can be loaded with data and programmed for different uses. More than a billion smart cards are already in use worldwide – you may even have one in your wallet!
Smart cards can be used for:
• Security – employee ID badges, electronic passports, driver’s licenses
• Healthcare – medical ID cards, physician ID cards, portable medical records
• Telecommunications – pre-paid phone cards
• Payment – credit/debit cards, parking cards and transit fare!
The Technology: How it will Work on Metro Transit
Each smart card has an embedded computer chip that keeps track of how much value is loaded onto it and what trips customers have taken each day. Unlike most credit cards, smart cards are not magnetic and do not require “swiping.” Equipped with antennae, the cards allow contactless communication so customers can simply wave or tap the card on the validator or farebox. Validators at MetroLink stations will respond with a green light and fareboxes on board MetroBus will beep to indicate the fare is accepted and has been deducted from the card.
CMT Members – Get Involved in the Process!
In the future, CMT members may have opportunities to help Metro test smart cards on the system. Right now, you can assist by taking this smart card survey. The survey will be open through June 15th.
Smart Cards: Big Process, Big Rewards
Installing a smart card fare collection system is a complex task that involves every department in a transit agency and takes several years to roll out. And once the new system is in place, it will continue to evolve as the technology advances. In St. Louis, Metro has begun this process by installing smart card capable equipment:
• Upgraded vending machines at MetroLink stations, to be completed this fall
• Upgraded validators on station platforms, completed this spring
• New fareboxes on 10 percent of MetroBuses
• System adjustments before rolling out fareboxes to the rest of MetroBuses later this year
Once all of the equipment is in place, Metro will begin the intricate process of programming the new smart card system to work with Metro’s existing computer systems, enabling MetroBus and MetroLink equipment to “talk” to each other and share updates on each card’s activity.
When Metro’s project is complete, smart cards will allow customers to:
• Reduce or eliminate the need to carry cash because smart cards are pre-paid
• Eliminate the need for exact change because the smart card carries excess money for future use
• Board with ‘tap and go’ payment
• Protect the card’s balance if it is lost, stolen or damaged. Metro will replace the value on cards that are registered.
• Buy a ride or a pass from home, through the website, at ticket vending machines or by calling customer support
• Load cards with value or with passes for specified time periods (i.e. 7-day, 30-day, etc…). Loaded value will not expire as long as the card remains active
• Set up an automatic recharge of balance
• Have reduced fares automatically deducted from the cards if qualified for a reduced fare program
Smart cards also will allow Metro to make better service planning decisions and to provide better service to customers, as well as to improve fare enforcement and reduce fare evasion.
‘Smart’ Transit around the World
Many public transit systems are either installing or planning to switch to contactless payment systems using smart cards as the primary ticket medium. Similar technology is already operational in many cities around the world, including Washington, D.C., London, Hong Kong, Seoul and Shanghai. To keep up with U.S. cities with similar systems, Metro has been studying agencies in Atlanta, Houston, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Pittsburgh and others. By examining the choices each agency has made, Metro can determine the best system and value for St. Louis.