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Open Payment, A New Approach to Public Transportation Fare Collection

10/19/2010 4:00 PM 4"237
George Kocur, Senior Lecturer CEE

Description: Soon, a ticket to ride won't require paper coupons, tokens, human vendors, or even Boston's CharlieCard. Urban transit is abandoning a century old payment system for sophisticated digital payment technology, saysGeorge Kocur.

Kocur has been toiling for a decade on technology and methods that will enable transit industry operations to become more intelligent and efficient. He notes that many cities have already acquired an assortment of improvements -- smartphone apps, and GPS networks to keep transport on time, for instance. But these are often expensive proprietary services and products offered by a hodgepodge of vendors. Kocur makes the argument for developing non"proprietary systems, especially around fare payment, which could be utilized by multiple transit authorities, reducing costs over time.

He describes the evolution of a "generic e"collection technology framework," based on a standardized, 'contactless' payment card used in many stores. This card, bearing valid credit after an online or phone transaction, can serve riders as a monthly pass, or even a single trip ticket. It's also very fast. In New York City tests, the e"collection card managed a transaction with a server via fiber optic network in 200"300 milliseconds on subway rides, and 400"800 milliseconds on that city's buses (wireless data moves a tad slower). In contrast, Boston's CharlieCard has a built"in chip that calculates the cost of the trip and debits it from the card, consuming valuable seconds.

Kocur is also working on a "fare engine" that maps "a set of card taps into a set of journey segments," and groups these segments into trips, and trips into fares. Complex algorithms come into play, and the end result would permit riders real"time options on both journey"routing and fares. This software is flexible enough to work in London, New York and other cities, optimizing for each system's travel network. To accommodate riders without bank credit, researchers are coming up with options including ATMs that accept cash to credit a fare card.

Kocur ultimately envisions piecing together "components that could be shared across transit systems," perhaps even a single card accepted at transit agencies around the world. He hopes to demonstrate that "we no longer need something specific to each agency that's expensive and difficult." This would mean public transportation leaders talking to each other, as well as to banks and credit card companies. "It's just about change in the transit industry, using technology as a lever," he concludes.

About the Speaker(s): George Kocur has spent much of his professional life developing software systems for telephony and transportation. His current research involves public transportation operations and planning, fare collection and ticketing, and logistics and supply chain. His courses involve software development, databases and networks, and and computer algorithms.

Kocur received an S.B. in Mechanical Engineering and an S.M. in Civil Engineering from MIT, and a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie"Mellon University.

Host(s): School of Engineering, Transportation@MIT

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MIT World — special events and lectures

MIT World — special events and lectures

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