Visa Brings Mobile Phones and Contactless Payment to Transit

Riders will now be able to pay for public transportation and taxis in New York City and Los Angeles using cell phones or credit cards. Visa Inc. recently announced the new technology in a press release:

“Transit agencies the world over have one primary goal – to get their customers to where they need to go quickly and efficiently. What transit agencies and riders recognize is that using Visa on buses, subways and trains is the logical evolution in terms of improved speed, security and convenience. For commuters, paying with Visa means no more fumbling for change or worrying about lost transit cards. For transit authorities, accepting Visa means better customer service, integrated collections and the potential for increased ridership.”

In New York, riders can use Visa payWave-enabled contactless cards and mobile phones to pay for the New York City subway, the PATH system and NJ TRANSIT.  The payment system uses an electronic chip embedded in a phone with a microSD slot or a credit card that users can wave at a fare gate or bus.  The trial program is in place on 28 stops along the Lexington subway line in Manhattan and some PATH rail stations, MTA bus lines and NJ TRANSIT routes. The system has also been installed in 10,000 New York City taxicabs.

In Los Angeles, riders can use a prepaid Visa card for LA Metro.  The TAP ReadyCARD combines the prepaid Visa card with the LA Metro’s Transit Access Pass (TAP) for payment . The cards work system-wide and are available as cards specific to LA Metro, as well as ATM cash access cards.  These cards will also function as PIN-activated ATM cards and a pre-paid cash card.

Visa is developing a long-term strategy to improve the speed, security and convenience of its new technology at existing locations.  The service exists elsewhere but in a more limited capacity:

  • Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The Express Rail Link now accepts the Visa payWave cards for the express train link from the city’s international airport to the city center.
  • London. A Barclay credit card uses the payWave system, and an Oyster smartcard application enables cardholders to use the city’s public transportation network.
  • Istanbul. The payWave card and a co-branded IDO Sea Miles card works at Istanbul ferry gates through DenizBank and Visa Europe.
  • Paris. A pilot for Visa payWave was launched for use at Paris metro fare gate with Regie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (RATP).

In most cases, the transportation systems of various countries accept international card Visa payWave cards, bringing ease to transportation for international travelers.

The payment systems builds efficiency in  getting on and off mass transportation in ways similar to TransMilenio in Bogota, Colombia.  This bus rapid transit (BRT) allows riders to pay after riding a local bus until they arrive at a bigger bus station.  According to an interview with Aaron Naparstek of Open Plans in a Streetsblog film, “That’s one of the things that speeds up the loading and unloading… you’re paying for the bus in the station, rather than having to pay the driver and wait for everyone else to pay the driver.”

The smartphone and new Visa payment systems eliminate the need for cash and buying tickets, and they minimize handling costs for transit operators.

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