>Comparison of Contactless Smartcards for Transit

>In an effort to get WMATA to upgrade its Smartrip card to include other features, I did a very brief study of other transit systems’ smartcards. Some of the most interesting and popular features are listed here:

London (Oyster Card):
*Automatic reloading – when your balance gets low, automatic credit card payment to replenish
*Online reloading – add money to your account online
*Daily Price capping – when you ride a lot in a day, your total payments are capped at the daily pass rate automatically
*Loadable passes – monthly or weekly passes are stored on the card
*Fast payment – you can pay for non-transit items through participating merchants
*National Rail System – you can pay for intercity train system fares
*Discounted Fare – smartcard users get better fares

Certainly in my study, this was the gold standard for contactless smart cards. It had every feature seen in any of the systems, and some that were unique to London.

Other systems:
San Francisco (AC Transit and Golden Gate Transit) “TransLink”:
*Auto reloading
*Loadable Passes

SFO BART (subway) “EZ Rider”:
*Auto reloading
*Discounted Fare

MTA (Baltimore) Transit Pass:
*Phase 2 – Loadable Passes
*Phase 2 – Automatic reloading

Atlanta MARTA “Breeze Card”
*Loadable Passes
*Disposable option – a disposable contactless smartcard for an additional fee

Chicago CTA “Chicago Card (Plus)”
*Loadable Passes
*Discounted Fare
*Automatic Reloading
*Online Reloading

Boston MBTA “CharlieCard”
*Loadable Passes
*Discounted Fare
*Automatic Reloading

It’s interesting to note that since all of the Portland transit systems are “honor system” (validated ticket), there is no need for faregates and thus no need for contactless smart cards. They mail you your monthly passes if you subscribe to the annual pass system, and individual rides are validated either on-vehicle (bus or streetcar) or off-vehicle (light rail).

All of the contactless smart cards had a price for purchasing the card, which was almost always $5 (3 GBP for oyster, around $6). MARTA (Atlanta) gave you 2 free rides ($4 value) with purchase. Almost every card system allowed you to leave the system with a negative balance. I know for WMATA this was to avoid upgrading the addfare machines inside the station.

For comparison, WMATA does not have any of the following features:
*Auto reloading
*Discounted Fares (Rail only)
*Loadable Passes
*Online reloading

Each of these features would be of benefit to both Metrorail and Metrobus riders.


About perkinsms

I'm an engineer and father interested in transit, parking and economics.
This entry was posted in BART, passes, smartrip, streetcar, transit, WMATA. Bookmark the permalink.

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