New Fare Payment Systems and Payment Technology Timeline from Exploration to Deployment

  • Date: November 9, 2022

To deploy a non-cash, technology-based fare system, transit agencies should consider the steps it takes to go from exploring – beginning to think about adopting a new fare payment or system technology – to deploying and launching it for public use. The timeline in Figure 6 has been developed from discussions and information provided by transit agencies and fare system vendors. Time required may vary from agency to agency and can be influenced by internal factors such as existing knowledge of technology, staff availability, and goals, as well as external factors such as coordination with agency partners, supply-chain, and federal requirements. In considering internal and external factors, the timeline includes either a range to indicate the low to high time associated with that process or a specific number indicating the minimum or typical amount of time.

Graphic of a timeline of exploration to deployment

Preliminary Planning

Once an agency has decided to explore a new fare technology, preliminary planning should include identifying goals, outlining features desired and preparing to meet with vendors and/or agency peers. This phase can last anywhere between two and four months. Setting goals for the fare technology can be a useful tool for selecting the fare system best suited for the agency. Examples of goals could be increasing convenience for riders, reducing cash reconciliation, or providing a diverse range of fare options for riders. After identifying goals, agencies should identify features or specifications for the technology to help them reach their goals. If unsure of the desired features, consider meeting with vendors or peer agencies, reviewing similar RFPs from other agencies, preparing a Request for Information (RFI), or reviewing the literature. Meeting with vendors and agency peers can be useful for asking questions, understanding needs, and aligning goals with features. After preliminary planning and procuring a new fare technology, it is time to develop the RFP.

RFP Development

The Request for Proposal should be influenced by the preliminary planning work and align with agency goals and desired features/specifications. The development of an RFP typically takes approximately one to two months. When developing the RFP, consider the following needs and requirements for the agency and from the vendor or service:

  • Alignment with agency goals
  • Existing fare
  • Fare payment(s) desired
  • Legacy technology integration requirements
  • Required customer service support for technology from the vendor
  • Maintenance support, if needed, for validators
  • Marketing/deployment support and materials
  • Federal reporting and data requirements
  • Administrative back-end requirements and considerations
  • Compliance with relevant standards (i.e., PCI DSS, General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS).

Once the RFP is developed, it is time to publish the RFP and transition to selecting a vendor.

Vendor Selection

An additional month should be allocated to review the vendor responses after the transit agency publishes the RFP and receives responses from qualified bidders. First, evaluate the extent to which the vendor or service can meet agency goals, specifications, and requirements outlined during the preliminary planning and RFP development phases. Additionally, consider the extent to which the vendor has experience delivering similar services to systems of similar size and complexity. Beware of vendor responses that may make commitments to technology that has not been time tested; rather, the technology procured should be already at-market and not require additional technology development by the vendor. It should be noted that beta testing of the technology in the agency service area for calibration or integrating firmware upgrades for security may be required and is different from the development of technology that is brand new or specifically developed for a transit agency. Transit agencies should also evaluate the cost-effectiveness of the fare type and its alignment with the fare need. For example, some vendors may charge a fee at a fixed cost or as a percentage of fare revenue. Once a vendor is selected, it is time to prepare for deployment.

Deployment of the Technology

A vendor will conduct a site visit to review vehicle equipment and technology needs in preparation for deploying the new fare technology. The RFP would designate if a vendor is responsible for installing the new technology or if an agency elects to install the validators, as applicable, with existing in-house maintenance personnel. Additionally, both staff and operators will need to be trained on the new technology. Staff will need to prepare how to provide customer service support, if not administered by the vendor and data and account management for the back-end data and software. For operators, training will be needed for any validators, if applicable, or on how to conduct proper visual validation. Before deployment, marketing materials and promotion should occur at bus stops, transit centers, onboard vehicles, and social media in alignment with existing agency communication and media practices. At a minimum, information and resource material, such as FAQs, should be added to the transit agency website or homepage about the technology, fare structure, payment methods, and how to access support if needed. Additionally, an agency may elect to conduct beta testing with a small pool of volunteers prior to full system deployment and acceptance. After completing all the necessary steps, it is time to celebrate the successful deployment of a new fare technology.