INTRO: Market developments are encouraging the long-awaited introduction of smart cards to a ticketing industry which has been dominated by magnetic stripe technology. Roger Ford looks at the technical and operational implications

ENCODED MAGNETIC stripes on tickets were seen as a key technology in combating fraudulent travel. In practice the forecast savings have not always been fully achieved, particularly when it was not considered cost effective to install barrier gates at stations outside the central areas of large metro systems.

However, as the number of passengers using stations continues to increase, designers of barrier gates are having to combine fraud prevention with greater throughput. This is an important reason for the introduction of smart card technology.

In practice, a continuous flow of passengers with valid tickets can pass through the barrier line with the paddles permanently open. With magnetic encoding, the speed of the ticket transport mechanism determines the maximum throughput. There is also the risk that anti-fraud features may generate spurious alarms if a traveller moves through the open gate faster than the transport mechanism can check the validity of the ticket.

Non-contact smart cards, which have only to be passed within 100mm of the ’target’ or validator to be read, make ticket processing effectively instantaneous. They also eliminate delays due to incorrect insertion of tickets or corruption of the encoding during read/write.

Faster gates critical

This now makes the gate mechanism the limiting factor in throughput. Various design features can be applied to minimise opening and closing time. One is to reduce the size of the gate or paddle, and thus the inertia. Another is to have paddles at each end of the gate so that in either direction of use there is the maximum time between the ticket being read on entry and the traveller reaching the gate. Prototypes now under test are reported to have reduced opening or closing times to 0·3 to 0·5 sec.

Barrier gate design also faces problems in providing effective control of fraud while remaining user friendly towards the majority of law-abiding travellers. For example, it is possible to jump over the turnstile in low-line gates or force a passage through paddles which are required to ’break back’ in an emergency.

One solution to such problems is the installation of full-height doors after the exit gates, with the door release linked to the operation of the gate mechanism. Fare evaders jumping over the gate find the exit blocked, while normal rotation of the turnstile releases the powered doors which fold flat against the gate housing. Automatic Systems is supplying 1000 of these gates to equip French National Railways’ Paris suburban network.

Where unidirectional gates are used to control the exits from stations, as on the Paris metro, there is the opportunity for fraudulent travellers to enter when the gate opens. Automatic Systems has also launched an anti-fraud gate which both simplifies exit while preventing fraudulent use. Dual radar units mounted in the door housing detect the presence of passengers approaching from both sides. When a passenger approaches from the station side the door opens automatically. But if passengers try to enter the gate from the street side, the door is closed in 0·3 sec.

Dual capability

Most existing AFC systems represent a substantial investment in magnetic stripe technology. Introduction of smart cards for season tickets or stored value transactions is likely to complement, rather than replace, existing magnetic encoding. In Seoul, for example, Thorn Transit Systems International has demonstrated the integration of contactless smart card readers into the high throughput system which it supplied to the Seoul Metropolitan Subway Corp (RG 2.93 p84).

A similar philosophy has been adopted by the CGA Division of Cegelec in its new generation of ticket validators. Complementing separate models for magnetically encoded tickets and smart cards is a combined version for transport authorities looking to optimise the benefits of the two media, in particular high throughput for regular travellers at peak times. The same technology is available to upgrade existing gates which accept ISO standard magnetically encoded cards to take smart cards.

Another city looking to run magnetic and smart card technologies in parallel is Paris. RATP is to replace the ticket validators on its fleet of 4000 buses with dual-capability units supplied by Ascom Monetel. The case for smart card capability was based on faster boarding times and reduced maintenance costs.

As described on p54, five transport operators in Hong Kong are integrating their ticketing activities using a common smart card. The new equipment is being overlaid on current ticketing systems, including the installation of card validators on the existing gates of the Mass Transit Railway, Kowloon - Canton Railway and the ferries.

AES Prodata, which is introducing the smart card system, is supplying a range of specialist equipment for the various modes. Each rail and bus operator will have an independent system with its own central server. These servers will communicate with the central clearing house over a Wide Area Network.

Equipment to be supplied ranges from validators and portable card readers to card vending and add-value machines. With the ability to store large sums in the Sony card’s ’electronic purse’, vending machines will be compatible with electronic fund transfer systems as well as accepting direct payment in coins or cash.

An obstacle to the use of smart cards to date has been the cost. This has continued to fall, and the unit price is now around US$5. Even so, this compares with 1 to 2 US cents for a magnetically encoded ticket which can be recycled. One way of offsetting the cost is to issue the smart cards on the basis of a deposit which can be credited to the electronic purse.

Smart cards allow the introduction of sophisticated strategies to encourage use. For example, a card can be debited with a fare plus a premium on entry to the system, with the premium returned when the card is used at the exit.

Use of the card can be combined with the display of information on the validator, such as expiry date and cost of the journey just made. In Hong Kong, the cards will have a language preference, set at point of sale, and this will trigger Chinese or English messages on the display.

Anti-fraud features extend beyond the simple re-use time delay, shared with magnetic encoding, to prevent a ticket from being passed back. For example the validity of a lost or stolen smart card can be cancelled as soon as the operator is notified.

Specialist equipment manufacturers are adding smart card capability to new products. The Almex Division of the Metric Group, which previously specialised in AFC equipment for road transport, is now targeting urban, inter-urban and light rail applications where smart cards are seen as the key to integrated fare collection systems.

Recent new products reflect this. There is a contactless smart card validator for on-board installations and the option of smart card operation, in addition to coin payment, with the latest Autofare 2000 on-board ticket vending machine.

For operators of light rail systems where drivers issue tickets, the smart card represents a further level of security. The driver can sit behind a protective screen, with a card reader on the passenger’s side. The ticket value can be set and the card brought up to the reader for the transaction to take place and the ticket printed out.

Vending machine developments

Ticket vending machine designers continue to seek enhanced user-friendliness, with the growing adoption of touch-screen technology. As part of its contract to supply AFC equipment for the Airport Express line in Hong Kong, Thorn Transit Systems International has developed a TVM for use by international travellers.

Using a touch screen with colour display, passengers are led through the purchase sequence using large ’buttons’ which incorporate both icons and instructions in English and Chinese. In the event of difficulty, passengers will be able to revert to the previous display, start again or call for help. Payment in large denomination coins, notes or by credit card is accepted.

Tickets will have a concealed magnetic stripe. The machines interface with the station accounting system for control and reporting via an ethernet. Location is software configured, so that the TVMs at the airport allow a ticket to any station on the line to be selected, while those on the line in the other direction will assume that the destination is the airport.

In the case of the ticketing system being supplied by ICL for the Gardermoen Airport link, sales through travel agents are expected to be the main method of purchase for the train tickets. As a result the standard magnetically-encoded ATB2 airline ticket format has been specified to allow travel agents to issue rail and flight tickets together.

NSB Gardermobanen’s sales management system, being supplied by Matra, will interface with individual travel agents through a network provide by Smart Systems of Norway. At stations TVMs will accept cash, credit or debit cards and issue the ATB2 ticket.

Because the link is likely to be used by a large number of airport employees and contractors, the barriers will also be compatible with smart cards, which will be available from station ticket counters, where credit levels will also be topped up.

Barrier gates, supplied by Dassault, will be similar to those in service at the Eurostar termini (RG 5.94 p319). Tickets will be validated and returned to the passenger. The gates have been designed for a high throughput of passengers with extensive luggage.

Payment handling

Variety of payment methods is an emerging requirement of ticket vending machines. For example, Klüssendorf’s new Univend series of stand-alone machines can handle six values of coin with change being given on a last-in/first-out basis to combat fraud. Bank notes can be presented in all four orientations and both smart cards and magnetically encoded credit cards can be read, with the option of PIN number validations and the choice of on-line or off-line operation.

Despite the move to electronic payment, TVMs continue to handle large quantities of cash. Coin handling technology continues to evolve, and Coin Controls International has recently introduced an electronic validator capable of accepting 12 types of coin. There is also an updated version of the company’s universal coin hopper.

Features of the Model C450 validator include a self check diagnostics programme, claimed to prevent fraudulent operation in addition to minimising downtime. Additional security features, such as individual coil inhibits, can be software configured.

One of the remaining manual tasks in ticketing installations is topping up change hoppers in individual TVMs. Nippon Signal now offers a coin circulation facility which allows change to be distributed to maintain stocks within groups of six to ten adjacent TVMs. o

CAPTION: Kowloon - Canton Railway’s ticket vending machines supplied by Thorn Transit Systems International are designed to guide the passenger through the process. Instructions are provided in English and Chinese

CAPTION: Left: As part of Hong Kong’s Creative Star smart card joint venture, AES Prodata is supplying CP4000 validators which include a screen display to advise passengers of their remaining ticket status

CAPTION: Automatic Systems has supplied rapid-opening gates for San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit, and is to install 1000 interlocked doors to combat fraud on the Paris suburban network

CAPTION: Thorn Transit Systems’ prototype Ticket Vending machine for Hong Kong’s Airport Express line uses a colour video screen display to guide passengers; the machines accept payment by coins , notes and bank cards, but the system is designed to accept Creative Star smart cards in the longer term

CAPTION: Right: The OSP-1000 on-station processor from AES Prodata will enable smart card holders to purchase trips using the electronic purse function in open stations without gates

CAPTION: Digital photographic techniques are used by AES Prodata to issue personalised smart cards with the user’s picture in just 2 min

Shanghai prepares for smart cards

On October 31 the Cubic Automatic Revenue Collection Group announced that it had won a US$27·9m contract to design, manufacture and install AFC equipment for the Shanghai metro. Stored-value farecards will be used, initially with magnetic stripes, but the equipment will be designed for a switch to contactless smart cards for the opening of Line 2, now under construction.

Over 350 separate pieces of equipment will be needed for stations on the two lines. These include booking office and automatic ticket vending machines, fare gates, supervisory computer systems and high-speed ticket encoders. Delivery is due to start in June, with some of the US-made machines to be assembled locally in Shanghai. o

La revolution de la carte à puce enfin en passe de devenir une realité

Des développements dans le marché des transports urbains favorisent l’introduction des cartes à puce attendue depuis si longtemps dans l’industrie des titres de transport dominée depuis de nombreuses années par la technologie de la bande magnétique. Les facteurs favorables englobent des passages plus rapides aux barrières dans le cadre des systèmes exploités aux limites de leur capacité, un entretien réduit dû à l’élimination des équipements de manipulation mécanique des billets, une plus grande flexibilité au point de vente et une extraction améliorée des données de comptabilité. Entre-temps la guerre contre les voyageurs clandestins se poursuit

Smart-card-revolution ist jetzt endlich im Gange

Entwicklungen auf dem Transitmarkt regen die lang erwartete Einführung von Smart Cards in eine Fahrkartenindustrie an, die viele Jahre lang von Magnetstreifentechnik dominiert wurde. Zu den Vorzügen zählen ein schnellerer Durchlauf an Schranken verkehrsreicher Systeme, die an den Grenzen ihrer Kapazität laufen, ein reduzierter Wartungsaufwand, da keine mechanischen Fahrkartenabwicklungsgeräte mehr vorhanden sind, mehr Flexibilität an der Verkaufsstelle und ein verbesserter Abrechnungsdatenabruf. Zwischenzeitlich wird der Kampf gegen Schwarzfahrer fortgesetzt

Por fin llega la revolucion de las tarjetas inteligentes

Con el desarrollo del mercado de tr