About Smart Cards : Applications : Transportation

Transportation Applications

Smart cards are used worldwide in transportation applications, with millions of smart cards in use for both transit fare payment and parking fee payment.

Smart Card Alliance Transportation Reports

Smart Cards and Transit

Mass transit agencies worldwide have been using stored value prepaid cards for electronic ticketing since the 1970s. Through the late 1990s, this market steadily began transitioning from magnetic stripe technology to contactless smart cards. Today, virtually all transit fare payment systems in the delivery and procurement stages use contactless smart cards as the primary ticket medium. Major deployments are already operational in cities around the world, including Hong Kong, Seoul, Pusan, Washington, D.C., and Shanghai.

Since the late 1990s, U.S. transit agencies have made significant investments in contactless smart card-based automatic fare collection (AFC) systems, with over $1 billion in contracts awarded for new systems that incorporate the latest developments in information technology (IT) and use contactless smart cards as the primary fare medium. State-of-the-art contactless smart card-based fare-collection systems are either operational or currently being delivered in Washington, D.C.; Baltimore; San Francisco; Oakland; Los Angeles; Chicago; San Diego; Seattle; Minneapolis; Houston; Boston; Philadelphia; Atlanta; and the New York/New Jersey area. The system in Washington, D.C., is fully operational, with over 1.8 million cards issued. Others are in advanced stages of delivery and are scheduled to be fully operational within the next 2 years. The result will be the introduction of an estimated 15 million contactless smart cards and over 20,000 payment processing devices.

As part of these initiatives, multiple regional agencies are forging cooperative alliances and establishing regional administrative bodies to manage activities such as card distribution, customer service operations, transaction processing, and IT. For example, the SmarTrip™ system, which operates in the Washington, D.C./Baltimore corridor, will include 17 independent transit operators, each with its own suite of products, discounting, and social equity programs.

In addition to these transit-specific fare payment systems, two pilots are now underway in the U.S. that are evaluating a new approach. Both New York City Transit and the Utah Transit Authority have pilots to accept standard financial payments industry-issued contactless credit and debit cards for fare payment directly at the point of entry.

U.S. Transit Smart Card Projects and Implementations

The following are active transit smart card implementations in the U.S.

Additional detail on transit use of smart cards can be found in the Smart Card Alliance reports Smart Cards and Parking and Transit and Retail Payment: Opportunities for Collaboration and Convergence.

International Transit Smart Card Projects and Implementations

Selected active international transit smart card implementations are listed below.

Smart Cards and Parking

The use of contact smart card technology is well established in the parking market, with parking equipment vendors providing solutions for all segments: single-space meters, multi-space meters, and off-street parking. Industry sources estimate that at least 75% of the tenders/bids for single-space meters received during 2004 and 2005 have specified the requirement to accept payment by both coin and a contact smart card, or to accept payment by coin and have the ability to be upgraded to accept payment by a contact smart card at a later date.

U.S. cities with contact smart card-based parking programs include: Albany, NY; Arlington, VA; Clemson, SC; Coral Gables, FL; Denver, CO; Miami, FL; Miami Beach, FL; Minneapolis, MN; Naperville, IL; New Haven, CT; New York, NY; Orlando, FL; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Portland, OR; Princeton, NJ; Providence, RI; Sacramento, CA; San Diego, CA; San Francisco, CA; San Jose, CA; Santa Cruz, CA; Santa Monica, CA.

In addition to contact smart card-based programs, transit agencies using contactless smart cards for fare payment are expanding the use of the card to pay for parking. Active programs in the U.S. include: WMATA SmarTrip; Port Authority Transit Corporation (PATCO), operating in Pennsylvania and New Jersey; and the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA).

Additional information about the use of smart cards for parking can be found in the Smart Card Alliance report Smart Cards and Parking.

Other Transportation Resources