Transit agencies traditionally used cash fare systems, but some agencies have introduced automated fare media by expanding fare payment to electronic, magnetic stripe contact cards and more recently to smart cards. A smart card is a contactless, reusable, prepaid card that includes an embedded microchip to monitor fare transactions and stored balance. Transit agencies view smart cards as a potentially revolutionary advancement due to their benefits, which include convenience, greater fare flexibility, operational cost savings, service enhancements, decreased fare processing time, centralized fare collection, more efficient fare pricing, and greater capacity for data compilation of ridership and travel behavior.
Automated fare media can be used to consolidate fare media among several agencies within a region. This has the benefit of making transfers between agencies more simple and straightforward for transit customers.
Reducing vehicle dwell time
An automated fare media can reduce or eliminate the need for transit customers to pay in cash, a typically time-intensive process compared to electronic fare media. Many electronic fare media in use feature the ability to pre-load the fare card with passes or cash value.
The Federal Transit Administration notes:
Many transit agencies offer prepaid fare media, such as a season pass, stored value card, or ticket. If a driver is required to inspect passes, boarding can be longer than with payment in change. An electronic fare box with a card reader can reduce boarding time for pass holders.
Fare cards with a microchip, or smart cards, can allow transit agencies to offer a more sophisticated fare policy. Contactless smart cards need only be waved at a marked spot, and therefore can reduce payment time.