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Thursday, August 26, 2010

CTA riders may soon use cell phones to pay for rides

I had to think about that post that was the recipient of my Instalanche back in May. Americans behind the mobile calling curve. Many of the comments basically panned the article and said they would prefer to use a PC to do what they could do on a mobile phone (such as banking for instance). Well I wonder if they're transit riders.

Personally I'm not sure if I want to pay my CTA fare with my cell phone anyway:
CTA riders may soon be able to use their cell phones to pay for their 1.7 million daily rides aboard buses and trains.

Technology is advancing so fast, a so-called “open fare collection system” in the works is likely to include cell phone payment, as well as “smart” credit and debit cards.

Riders would either purchase a new “smart” phone or get a special computer chip installed in their old ones encoded with information about reduced fares.

CTA passengers would then tap their phones on a touch pad, just as they currently do with fare cards.

“You see it throughout Asia. You see it throughout Europe. … They’d be able to put a chip into cell phones and individuals would be able to use their cell phones … as a credit card — not just for the CTA, but for [other] purchases,” said CTA President Richard Rodriguez.
What’s in it for the CTA is not only convincing private companies to replace 13-year-old fare collection equipment that needs to be upgraded.

It’s the ability to boost ridership and cut costs by eliminating the need for employees to handle cash, sell tickets and buy and maintain vending machines that sell transit cards.

“It would also reduce our expenses with having to print up all these cards that we do and have our customers go through two or three different steps to obtain this when you already have a credit card [or cell phone] in your pocket,” Rodriguez said.

What’s in it for the banks and credit card companies is the ability to supply the one card that’s most frequently pulled out of consumers’ wallets. The cell phone chip would also link purchases to a credit card.

“We provide 1.7 million rides-per-day. It basically would be giving them access to an entire new clientele [and] future customers,” Rodriguez said.
OK, I think I like the idea of CTA saving money by not having to maintain vending machines or printing fare cards or what not. And the idea of contracting with financial institutions to provide fare paying media seems like a winner too. I know there are those who will bellyache about it anyway though.

I have noticed during the era when you used to get a 1% or 2% bonus when you put $10 or $20 on a fare card that people continued to use cash and pay the exact fare as opposed to just putting away some money for future use. I'm going to bet money that in the long run they may want to keep those vending machines for those holdouts, although surely they will adjust eventually. That or the new riders or the tourists will already be ready to pay their fare by credit or debit when this is finally rolled out!

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