Federal Transit Administration research offers ideas on how to overcome common challenges for transit agencies looking into implementing integrated payment systems.

Findings from a state-of-the-practice assessment analyzing the current state of Mobility Payment Integrations in the United States.

Nationwide; United States

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Lesson Learned

The assessment identified major challenges faced by agencies seeking to update their service and offered recommendations to meet them:
  • Fare Simplification. Many transit agencies have had their fare structures expand and convolute over the years, which can be confusing to customers. Developing a simplified formula is helpful, though an intensive effort that requires several rounds of public outreach and feedback. Agencies should investigate whether fare simplification would be worth the effort.
  • Fare Capping. Fare capping has only been instituted in one system in the United States, but is more popular in European deployments. Interviewees noted that implementing fare capping can be difficult for riders to become comfortable with. The assessment recommended careful, intensive public education to explain and build trust in the system.
  • Equity. There is a general movement towards cashless business and services, often because cash transactions are seen as inefficient. However, agencies must be careful that they do not effectively bar riders without bank cards from their services; many Americans are under- or un-banked and primarily use cash for their day-to-day transactions. One method of addressing this concern will be implemented by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) which has set a standard that 95 percent of customers must be able to use cash within 1,000 feet of any MBTA stop.
  • Cybersecurity. Agencies accepting online payments must be aware of the risks of data breaches. A study referenced in the assessment noted that the vast majority of users would revert to using cash for their mass transit payments in the wake of a data breach. Agencies should "stress test" their assumptions regarding the needed number of fare cards available to the public for such eventualities.
  • Business Models. Public-private partnerships can reduce the amount of public capital funding required to upgrade systems and lowers the exposure of agencies to risk. The assessment notes that agencies should determine whether their funding sources allow them to penalize payment processors who do not meet performance specifications.

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Mobility Payment Integration: State-of-the-Practice Scan

Author: Bartinique, I.,and J. Hassol

Published By: U.S. DOT Federal Transit Administration

Source Date: 10/01/2019

Other Reference Number: FTA Report No. 0143

URL: https://rosap.ntl.bts.gov/view/dot/42672

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Lesson Analyst:

Ned Schweikert


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United States

Goal Areas



smart cards, electronic fare payment, SmartCard, smart card, SmartCards

Lesson ID: 2020-00951