Here in New York City, we are witnesses the slow but inexorable death of the MetroCard. Despite the fact that the technology is alive and well underground, forces are plotting behind the scenes to replace. Later this year, the MTA will issue an RFP for companies who will bring a contactless, credit- and bank-card-based fare payment system into the subways, and sometime in the hazy future, the MetroCard will be a historical footnote.
In London, a city that already has its own contactless payment system, things are moving faster. According to recent reports from the other side of the Atlantic, Transport for London will have a bank card system in place by 2012, and it will be the first international city with a major public transit network to do so.
Rail.co’s A. Samuel has more:
By the end of 2012 card readers across the whole of the Transport for London (TfL) network will have been upgraded so that a touch of a contactless bank or credit card will allow passengers to touch in and out for pay as you go travel on the bus, Tube, Docklands Light Railway (DLR), Tram and London Overground network.
The new system will be up and running on all of London’s 8,000 buses in time for the 2012 Games, enabling quick and easy bus travel for the millions of visitors who will flock to the Capital to enjoy the greatest show on earth.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “It is tip top news that from next year a simple tap of a contactless bank card will be enough to whizz you from A to B in this great city. London leads the way in so many different fields and we will be the first in the world to allow the millions using our Tube, trams, buses and trains to benefit from the ease of using this technology.”
London is one of many cities globally working informally together to help create a network of reciprocal credit- and bank-card readers. Authorities in London, Paris, New York, Boston, Chicago, Washington, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Salt Lake City and Sydney are working with the banking industry to ensure a secure, simple and quick solution that can scale across cities and countries. The example for London concerns tourists who are fresh off a plane but don’t want to confront the challenges of purchasing a fare card in a foreign city.
Meanwhile, TfL says the new system will lead to a more efficient and money-saving approach to fare collection. The MTA has noted the same benefits and believes this is a prime example of how spending capital dollars will lead to savings on the operations side of the ledger. How the system works in London will help illuminate how ours in the U.S. will eventually work as well.
Of course, this news out of the U.K. is intriguing because of the timeframe. New York City has been testing some form of a PayPass trial on and off for nearly five years, but because London has the Oyster card infrastructure in place, it can rapidly move to a credit card-based fare solution. We have to wait because our system must undergo an entire top-to-bottom overhaul.
Still, I’m intrigued by the idea of an international standard, and as long as New York’s project is moving forward, I don’t mind the wait. It will be a few years, but slowly, the technology is moving forward.