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About Smart Cards : Applications : Transportation

Transportation Applications

Smart cards are used worldwide in transportation applications, with millions of smart cards in use for both transit fare payment and parking fee payment.

Smart Card Alliance Transportation Resources

  • Co-Branded Multi-Application Contactless Cards for Transit and Financial Payment. This report provides an overview of an approach for transit/financial payment convergence that leverages co-branding card business models and the multi-application capabilities provided by smart card technology.

  • Expert Series Videos: Transit and Open Bank Card Payments

  • A Guide to Prepaid Cards for Transit Agencies. This white paper was developed by the Smart Card Alliance Transportation Council to provide an overview of the prepaid card industry and the products available, including network-branded prepaid cards. It is directed to readers who work for or support transit agencies. The paper provides guidance on what transit agencies should look for when evaluating the feasibility and benefits of using prepaid cards as one element of an open loop fare collection system. The paper also provides useful information to other members of the prepaid card industry who have an interest in collaborating with the mass transit industry to expand the use of prepaid cards.

  • Near Field Communication (NFC) and Transit: Applications, Technology and Implementation Considerations. This white paper was developed by the Smart Card Alliance Transportation Council to discuss mobile applications that are relevant to the transit industry and to provide an overview of the benefits and implementation considerations for NFC applications.

  • Planning for New Fare Payment and Collection Systems: Cost Considerations and Procurement Guidelines. This white paper was developed by the Smart Card Alliance Transportation Council to present a conventional approach for planning, conducting a cost analysis, and procuring a new fare payment system or upgrading an existing system. Additionally, a cost model is presented that allows the user to input an agency’s current fare payment and fare collection costs and compare them to the costs for proposed alternative systems. The cost model is available as an Excel workbook and provides an interactive tool for agencies to use to assess different fare payment system alternatives.

  • Serving Unbanked Consumers in the Transit Industry with Prepaid Cards. This white paper was developed by the Smart Card Alliance Transportation Council to provide the transit and financial industries with an educational overview of the various methods available for providing and re-loading fare media to individuals who do not have credit or debit cards, nor checking or savings accounts, and generally lack relationships with traditional banking institutions.

  • Smart Card Alliance Transportation Council

  • Smart Cards and Parking. This report provides an overview of the smart card technology use in the parking and transit markets, discusses the benefits and challenges of using smart card technology for parking applications and includes profiles of successful transportation sector smart card implementations.

  • Smart.Transit LinkedIn Group, open to Smart Card Alliance member and public transit agencies to stimulate discussion of transit payments-related topics.

  • Transit and Contactless Open Payments: An Emerging Approach for Fare Collection. This white paper was developed by the Smart Card Alliance Transportation Council to inform the transit industry of the opportunities, benefits and challenges of accepting contactless open bank cards for fare payment and to inform the bank card industry of unique requirements for transit fare collection.

  • Transit and Retail Payment: Opportunities for Collaboration and Convergence. This report describes the potential opportunities for collaboration on a combined transit-retail payment card.

  • Transit Open Payments Resources, providing information on transit agency implementations, pilots and planned procurements of open payments fare collection systems.

  • Transit Payment System Security. This white paper was developed by the Smart Card Alliance Transportation Council to outline the approaches that the transit industry uses throughout payment systems to ensure the security of transactions and data and to discuss recent research on one contactless chip product that is used in many transit AFC systems.

Smart Cards and Transit

Mass transit agencies worldwide have been using stored value prepaid cards for electronic ticketing since the 1970s. Through the late 1990s, this market steadily began transitioning from magnetic stripe technology to contactless smart cards. Today, virtually all transit fare payment systems use contactless smart cards as the primary ticket medium. Major deployments are already operational in cities around the world, including Hong Kong, Seoul, Pusan, Washington, D.C., and Shanghai.

Since the late 1990s, U.S. transit agencies have made significant investments in contactless smart card-based automatic fare collection (AFC) systems, with over $1 billion in contracts awarded for new systems that incorporate the latest developments in information technology (IT). Most of these systems use agency-branded contactless smart cards as the primary fare medium. Most major U.S. metropolitan areas now have closed-loop, stored value contactless smart card-based AFC systems including: Washington, D.C.; San Francisco; Oakland; Los Angeles; Chicago; San Diego; Seattle; Minneapolis; Houston; Boston; Philadelphia; Atlanta; and the New York/New Jersey area.

In addition to these transit-specific fare payment systems, transit agencies in the U.S. are moving to open bank card payments for fare payment at the the point of entry to subways, trains and buses. Beginning in January 2009, the Utah Transit Authority implemented the first complete open bank card payment system for transit fare payment in the United States. Transit operators in the New York–New Jersey region (MTA New York City Transit, Port Authority Trans Hudson (PATH) and New Jersey Transit) collaborated on a pilot to test the concept of open payments on two subway lines, several connecting bus routes in New York, and bus routes and connecting service to the PATH system in New Jersey. Currently, transit agencies in numerous locations, including Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington, DC, Dallas, and Toronto are actively pursuing open payment solutions.

Additional detail on transit use of smart cards can be found in the Smart Card Alliance white paper Transit and Contactless Open Payments: An Emerging Approach for Fare Collection and on the Transit Open Payments Resources web page.

North AmericanTransit Smart Card Projects and Implementations

The following are active transit smart card implementations in the U.S. and Canada:

In addition, several transit agencies are in active procurements for open payment systems that accept contactless bank cards. These include:

International Transit Smart Card Projects and Implementations

Selected active international transit smart card implementations are listed below.

Smart Cards and Parking

The use of contact smart card technology is well established in the parking market, with parking equipment vendors providing solutions for all segments: single-space meters, multi-space meters, and off-street parking.

In addition to contact smart card-based programs, transit agencies using contactless smart cards for fare payment are expanding the use of the card to pay for parking. Active programs in the U.S. include: WMATA SmarTrip; Port Authority Transit Corporation (PATCO), operating in Pennsylvania and New Jersey; and the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA).

Additional information about the use of smart cards for parking can be found in the Smart Card Alliance report Smart Cards and Parking.

Other Transportation Resources


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