Smart Cities Need More Automated Fare Collection Technology

By: | November 6th, 2016

Fare Collection MBTA Trains

Fare Collection MBTA Trains (Image Courtesy Wikimedia By Pi.1415926535 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons)

Friction, in a technology sense, refers to the hurdles and hoops you must jump over and through to try to get a task done with a given technology. If the technology gets in your way, then friction is high; if the technology is unnoticeable as you complete your task, friction is low.

The quality of human life, therefore, has a lot to do with reducing the amount of friction in our everyday activities through the use of smarter and better-designed technology. A recent report suggests that OCR Automated Fare Collection Systems are being adopted across the globe, mostly markedly in North America and Europe, China, Japan, Southeast Asia, and India, specifically to reduce this kind of friction.

High Friction Exists in “Dumb” Cities

A classic example of friction is the Boston MBTA system in which collecting fees for services is subject to huge friction and revenue leakages. The system for collection of fares is so inadequate that during rush hour, MBTA staff don’t bother trying to get 100% compliance as trains are too packed to make it practicable. MBTA debts estimated to be as much as $8 billion would likely be 50% less if there was better compliance/less evasion. One study commissioned by the MBTA estimates fare evasion leads to $42 million a year in lost income suggesting a loss of nearly $2 billion over the past 25 years.

Compare the MBTA to Japan’s national railway services, and there isn’t any comparison with respect to technology, design, and results. You can’t enter a train platform in Japan without going through a turnstile. The turnstiles are extremely well designed and efficient. Going through a turnstile in Boston feels like entering a guillotine while going through a turnstile in Japan is a fun and exciting experience. Such is the efficiency of the design of the turnstile.

The following video shows AdvantechCorp’s automated fare collection (AFC) system:

David Russell Schilling

David enjoys writing about high technology and its potential to make life better for all who inhabit planet earth.

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