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Smart cards/barriers on their way as TransLink announces shortlist

May 28th, 2010 · 48 Comments

The whole debate over putting in turnstiles on SkyTrain has been boiling along for a couple of years now, with TransLink insisting for the most part that it’s not cost-effective (it would be more expensive to put them in and maintain them than the fares you recover) and the public + former minister Kevin Falcon, who just couldn’t stand the idea that punks were getting away with not paying their $2.50. (And it appeared to me that Vancouver was in the unfortunate position of being a middle-sized city, with no clearcut model on whether it should have turnstiles or not. Smaller cities almost never do, not worth the money. Big big cities always do, definitely worth the money. Vancouver stuck in the middle.)

I had a hard time keeping track of what was actually happening, but it appears from this morning’s announcement as though things really are moving along in that direction. News releases not my preferred mode of communication, but I know the transit junkies will love this.

TransLink selects companies to propose Smart Card / Faregate
system for transit

Three consortia that supply smart card electronic fare payment systems and faregates to some of the biggest transit operations in the world have qualified to submit proposals to supply a Smart Card and Faregate system for TransLink, to be in operation by the target date of first quarter of 2013. The three groups are:

Thales/Octopus International Projects – creator of the ‘Octopus Card’ used on Hong Kong’s transit service and supplier of similar systems in the Netherlands, Norway and Dubai.

Serco/Parkeon – who introduced a complete smart card program for Perth, Australia and have provided related systems to transit operations in Belgium, England and Dubai, as well as to the French national rail system, SNCF.

Cubic/IBM – whose systems include London’s ‘Oyster Card’ and systems for US transit agencies in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Miami-Dade, San Francisco plus Brisbane in Australia.

The three groups were among 10 that responded to TransLink’s ‘Request for Qualifications,’ a process that identifies suppliers with the technology and the track record to provide the systems and services needed.  The next stage in the process will launch in June when these groups will be asked to develop formal proposals based on TransLink’s specific requirements.

The proposals received will be evaluated against qualifications, technical and financial criteria to identify the most cost and technically effective system for TransLink.  A contract, that will include operations and maintenance of the system for 10 years, could be awarded later this year with work beginning in 2011.

Funding for the Smart Card / Faregate project includes $40 million from the provincial government and $30 million from the federal government’s Build Canada Fund.  TransLink will cover the remaining costs.

TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis says, “Smart Cards will make our transit system easier to use for the customers and provide invaluable information that will help us maximize the efficiency and productivity of our fleets.  Faregates will address the public’s long-standing concern with fare evasion on SkyTrain and will promote a greater sense of security,” he says.

TransLink’s smart card will be modeled after electronic fare payment systems in use around the world.  Transit customers use a card with an electronic chip that they ‘load’ with funds to pay for their transit trips.  In many of the world’s leading systems, customers tap their cards on special readers when they enter a transit vehicle or station and some systems also have customers ‘tag-off’ as they exit.  The fare charged to their card can be based on the distance they travel, the time of day, the specific route or other factors.

In fact, smart cards will give TransLink more flexibility to structure the transit fare system to achieve a number of goals including increases in efficiency and ridership.  In addition, smart cards generate a significant amount of valuable data on how customers use the transit network – information that TransLink will use to refine routes and schedules, or even to help determine the size of the buses needed at various places and times.

The introduction of an electronic fare payment system provides the opportunity to install Faregates in SkyTrain and SeaBus stations.  Adding a gate or barrier to a Smart Card process is relatively simple and, in fact, the two systems complement each other.  However, because most of the original Expo Line SkyTrain stations were never designed with the necessary space for Faregates, the overall project includes station modifications that will begin next year.

CEO Ian Jarvis says it was particularly gratifying to have all of the world leaders in Smart Card and Faregate technology express interest in putting TransLink’s new system in place.  He adds, “We’re especially grateful to yet again have the financial support of the provincial government and the federal government in a project that will contribute so much to our ongoing drive to deliver efficiency, effectiveness and greater customer benefits.”

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