The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority announcedthat it will install turnstiles at 10 stations and six bus lines to test takingcontactless payments from cards, mobile phones, federal ID badges, and, yes,devices like the new Apple watch, the Washingtonianreports.
There’s no reason to panic aboutcarrying around fare cards and SmarTrip cards for now—the pilot program willrun for about six months. If the test run goes well, Metro says it plans toinstall the NFC-equipped gate at every rail station and on every bus startingin 2017. Metro’s long-term plan is to make it much more efficient for people toenter and exit the system. The prospect of waving one’s phone (or wristaccessory) at the gate to board a train seems far speedier than having to queueat a kiosk to ensure there’s enough money on your fare card.
The pressrelease announcing the program says the installation of the new gates willbegin next month. The project to introduce contactless payments will be amulti-year effort.
If the pilot is successful, Metroplans to replace the now decades-old fare gates and vending machines at stationentrances across the system, and add new payment targets onboard buses and atparking facilities, starting in 2017. The replacement of outmoded technology isexpected to result in faster, more reliable fare payment for thousands ofriders each day as they travel through Metro’s rail, bus and parking systems.
Of course, the success of the pilot will also depend on howmany people have — and are aware of having — contactless-enabled cards ormobile wallets on phones with NFC chips. For the time being, these turnstileswill primarily be of benefit to Android users, since Android phones carrycontactless chips. Blackberry, which is the preferred phone of many governmentagencies, has some phones with NFC capabilities, so that may be a boon for thepilot.
However, it is likely that the preferred payment method willcontinue to be the card, since the desire to move quickly through turnstilesand onto buses will mean that commuterswon’t want to take the time to log intoa payments application.
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