Introducing passenger information system

Modern ticketing systems can provide much more than just ticketing. When on board equipment is linked with central system through 3G/4G, transmitting vehicle position comes as a bonus. This makes it possible building passenger information and fleet management systems within very tight budget: absolutely no need for adding anything on board.

I believe that this is a very smart move that will change how industry addresses this type of functions. While such system cannot fully deliver what a classic full Bus Operation Assisted System delivers, it already satisfies more than 90% of needs for roughly 10 times less: very tempting!

This is exactly what is happening in Adelaide where the Premier Jay Weatherill and Transport Minister Chloe Fox have launched the first phase of the passenger information system with success.

Links below will give you more information about the event.

Channel 9 news

Channel 10 news

InAdelaide Daily

The last link I am giving to you includes two misplaced sequences: can you spot them?

Channel 7 news

Posted in Passenger Information | Leave a comment

Already 80% of Metrocard users

Passager_001Introduction of Metrocard has started last November and keeps all its promises: in about 8 months, usage has already reached 80%. This is beyond the 75% target that was expected to occur after a year. Eight passengers out of ten are now riding with metrocard and it seems that the final level has yet to be reached.

This popularity is remarkable in many aspects. First AdelaideMetro did not undertake any expansive publicity campaign through papers, radio and television channels, and information was made available using uTube videos explaining various Metrocard facets. A few vehicles (trams and buses) were dressed Metrocard to tell users that it was now available and that they were now welcome using it. Remarkable point, nobody was forced to using Metrocard, legacy Multitrip tickets were still available to users a month ago. Minister of transport Chloé FOX informing general public about project status did the rare appearances of Metrocard on radio and television. Noticeable fact, the Minister never needed to come back on her announces: everything always went according to schedule!


Vending machines at ADELAIDE railway station

Multitrip sales have just been officially phased out last month and passengers stocks will now gradually diminish. They are still representing about 4% of validations and one can rightly imagine that Metrocard will soon reach 85% of validations. When this happens, we will be able to talk about outright success knowing than a number public transport networks using various forms of contactless cards struggle to break the 80% mark. It is also good to remember that casual users were accounting for 26% of validations before introduction of Metrocard. Even more, if I recall well, the lowest level recorded of casual users in the past 25 years was 23%.

Why such enthusiasm?

I have not been doing any sort of detailed study about it and so I will refrain from any sort of conclusion. However, I believe that the following facts might have played a significant role reaching this level of popularity.

  • Metrocard answers users demand allowing to access best fare from $5.00 recharge while it was necessary to spend over $30.00 (regular) to reach the same discount,
  • Introduction of metrocard has not caused any suffering to passengers, we have achieved a true seamless operation, and this contributes building confidence,
  • All media reports have been positive: no information to seed doubts into users minds,
  • The pilot group (10000 users) has allowed the authority to verify and fine tune before general release. I would like to underline that pilot users were asked to fill in a questionnaire and that 80% did with additional comments most of time: success was already in the air!
  • Users did not have to make any effort adapting to new equipment. The first phase of system introduction was to replace old equipment by new equipment and continue using the same tickets until the introduction of metrocard. The new equipment was showing a target for Metrocard and this might have been a teaser.
  • The reliability of the whole system is outstanding: this helps building a growing level of confidence
  • The authority has built a very good team spirit between customer services and technicians. This provides means to give users very good and accurate explanations to passengers experiencing difficulties using their metrocard,
  • The system is very flexible and allows the authority to make fare structure changes.  Allowing to better answer public demand is a key to keeping users and convincing others to use public transport.

Posted in Ticketing | Leave a comment

METROCARD: it is now

Now ready to go

Everybody in Adelaide await Metrocard introduction with visible impatience: it is coming now!
The 6000 champions who have tested Metrocard during the past few months have done it with panache and cannot stop praising it: general operation can now start smoothly. Metrocard definition supported by one of the best ticketing system (Atlas) on the market seems to be answering perfectly the needs of Adelaide’s public transport users and operators. The number of positive and constructive comments received during the trial period are already a token of recognition.
It is definitely a new page for ticketing in Adelaide. The previous system, known as Crouzet, leaves  place to ATLAS after 25 years of good service.

For ticketing, Adelaide is familiar writing new chapters

The 27th of October 1997, Adelaide was going live with the first ever large scale on board ticketing system based on magnetic tickets. This was providing Adelaide citizens with a true multimodal system for all. This can be considered Adelaide’s signature: many other cities around the world do not care this much for their casual users who generally end up with no transfer trips. This very spirit has been kept with the new Metrocard system which combines magnetics and cards allowing anyone to freely transfer between all transport modes for a two hours period following the first boarding. Peak/interpeak fares apply automatically when starting the journey thus providing additional comfort to users. Casual users can still buy a ticket from the bus driver or on automatic machines on board trains and trams. They can still enjoy automatic transfers, thanks to magnetic tickets which have been improved now being insensitive to domestic magnets.

Many innovative features for Metrocard

Vending machines in Adelaide railway station

You can now buy a ticket or recharge a card the way you like: at info centres or metrocard agents, you can still by a ticket on board buses, trains and trams, you will be able to recharge your card on web very shortly, you can call the info line and obtain a remote recharge available the next day on all validating equipments, and finally you can subscribe to an auto recharge and never run out of travel. Auto recharge will load your card with a set value you chose each time your card balance becomes too low. Payment of auto recharge is done afterward via your credit card account you used to set it up.
Your Metrocard may be anonymous or registered. If you register it, it becomes protected and you can recover the content if lost or destroyed: the “copy” of your original card is just transferred to your new card.

Modern Info centre at Adelaide railway station

By combining library of routes and trips to GPS signal embedded into  driver console, the metrocard system is able to pinpoint vehicle position at all times guaranteeing that ticketing parameters are always correct and providing valuable information to security. Because route and trip information comes from Google transit, updates are fully automatic providing a very interactive tool for operation managers.

High traffic point where train, tram and buses meet

Passenger information will soon benefit from this data feed for more accurate and flexible information about public transport services in real time.
Quality and quantity of information collected by the metrocard system is second to none. It opens new horizons monitoring public transport and fuelling research for on going service improvements.


Latest news from ADELAIDE

As I am closing this article, Sunday 4th of November 2012 was the official launch of Metrocard and everything went according to plan. From now on, Adelaide citizens may buy a Metrocard instead of buying a Multitrip, all other types of tickets are still perfectly valid, the system being able to process all technologies, there is no rush, no brutal switch, just a nice way choosing how you want to ride AdelaideMetro.

Adelaide Metrocard launch by Minister Chloe FOX


Posted in Fare Structure, Ticketing | Leave a comment

Don’t know how to use Metrocard

Get the best of your Metrocard following that link:

Metrocard usage tips

Posted in Fare Structure, Ticketing | Leave a comment

Adelaide Railway Station

Automatic gates

Adelaide railway station is the converging point of all Adelaide suburban railway lines. Controlling entry and exit here is a simple and efficient way of fighting fraud.
In fact, most stations on the network do not have required infrastructure to envisage implementing a closed system and controlling the “knot” is definitely a must.

New barrier gates are now installed and in service. It is made of 24 reversible aisles with tripods and two wide aisles with flaps to cater for special cases. While the choice of tripods may seem conservative, their cost, simplicity to operate and reliability have won the deal. To process a crowd, one should always keep in mind that it is always preferable to have more aisles with average throughput than a small number of high speed aisles which are often affected by a funnel effect when you get a bit more passenger than expected. To the contrary, a large number of gates allows a natural spreading of the crowd and an overall better passenger flow.

Crowd exiting

Like all other pieces of equipment composing new MetroCARD system, gates are fitted with a tri-technolgy reader which processes legacy LoCo magnetic tickets, new HiCo magnetic tickets and contact less smart cards (Mifare DESFire).Six thousand cards are currently into service with pilot passengers, high coercitivity magnetic tickets are gradually replacing legacy cash fare ticket and legacy Multitrip tickets are still valid: the three technologies are processed in full transparency without any sort of inconvenience for passengers.This was one of the big challenges of project: achieving full compatibility between a modern very up-to-date system and a quarter of a century old legacy system: this is working beyond expectations and is a total success.

Compared to the legacy system, the number of gates has been increased by about 50% to provide more throughput capacity and thus more comfort for passengers. The main problem at Adelaide Railway Station is to clear large amounts of passengers very quickly following arrivals of trains thus avoiding congestion of the paid concourse which is not very large.

During installing, which was done gradually, all aisles were made reversible to accommodate morning and evening peaks automatically: it is the person validating first who determine direction in which the aisle operates. Luckily Adelaide passenger flow is mainly one way at anytime and we did not experience too much problems. However, the system provides possibility to program gate configuration depending upon time of the day. It is envisaged to put a few gates in one direction only so that people going in the opposite direction of the main passenger stream are not penalised being confronted with “rowing against the tide”.

New ticket office

Ticket office has been totally rebuilt and capacity has been doubled. Trains being converted to electric power together with a reorganisation of services, an increase of passenger numbers is planned. Because of existing building constraints, ticket office had to be constructed along the depth of the station and inside the paid concourse. This has induced necessity to install a small barrier with three aisles to provide an easy exit to passengers exiting the ticket office. The final arrangement has taken into account emergency and ambulance access for which final gates are being built.

This new part of the system has entered into service without noticeable difficulties. After just a few days passengers were already used to it. Introduction of metrocard will improve gate throughput by about 50% compared to magnetic tickets.

Posted in Ticketing | 1 Comment

Flat fare or not flat fare

Adelaide public transport  runs services across an area of about 3000 square kilometres with buses, tramways and trains. One could imagine that over such an area, fares would depend upon distance travelled.
In fact no, Adelaide public transport moved from a 3 zone arrangement (late 90′s) to a flat fare structure years ago without significant revenue impact. During planning stages of the new Metrocard system, about to enter into service, this topic generated number of discussions and finally simplicity, continuity and social component won the deal. Flat fare was kept and capabilities of the new system make it possible to go one step further. Adelaide flat fare is in fact an authorisation to use the network for two hours, whether you use it two hours or half an hour is the same price.
Introduction of a stored value contact-less card to replace current Multitrip tickets contributes improving passenger comfort by removing need to carry two tickets (peak & interpeak), fosters quicker boarding times, offers many ways of recharging and provides better reliability. Fares are deducted automatically when validating Metrocard according to time and passenger category.  Passenger are informed via audio and visual messages for better understanding of what is happening. Other fare modulation possibilities are also included into the new system like applying discounts on selected routes to encourage usage of public transport in selected areas or when introducing new services.

Each passenger category has its own card, namely Regular, Student or Concession which are of different colors. Seniors have not been forgotten and will receive a new Senior card into which a “Metrocard” is embedded to provide free travel during free travel periods  and also authorise use of concession fare stored value when travelling outside free travel periods. Of course, selection of which fare product shall be used at any time is done automatically by the system.

 Main reasons leading to the choice of a flat fare structure are its ability to provide a “natural” social fare scaling and to avoid complexity for the user as much as possible. The concept is very easy to understand and does not affect ticketing revenue compared to other networks using more complex fare structures. However, very short trips that do not require transferring between services might be perceived a bit expensive by users. For this reason, Adelaide public transport proposes a “2 SECTION” fare which, as it name self explains, caters for one trip along two sections without transfer. This fare is available both with Metrocards and cashfare tickets.

Adelaide casual users have not been forgotten and they can still buy tickets from bus drivers or on board trains and tramways on automatic vending machines. There are cashfare tickets for each passenger category unlike in other networks where only one for all  “expensive” ticket is available for sale on board. Cashfare tickets still allow you to transfer between services automatically: thanks to magnetic tickets usage.

The classic alternative to flat fare is distance based fare structure for which fares depend upon distance travelled. After being seduced by the idea of just paying for what is used one may find out that it is not as efficient as one may believe. A number of other factors have to be taken into account to satisfy community needs which should remain the main element leading to the final choice.

When computing fares based on distance it is common practice to say that farther you go and less you pay per kilometre. While this does not present any difficulty implementing it with modern ticketing system, it begins making it difficult for passengers to understand fares. If on top of this you introduce tariff modulation based on the period of the day, how frequently you use the service, and a social component, understanding tariffs becomes next to impossible. I know a few places in the world where obviously passengers have renounced understanding fares and only try to workout their monthly expense cumulating recharges. Even if we are not talking big money here, I do not like the feeling of not knowing how much I am charged compared to how much I should be charged.

In most developed countries, real estate value is generally proportional to the distance from city centres: the closer you are from the centre the dearer it becomes. This contributes sending low revenue users farther and farther from city centres where offices generally are: public transport tariff shall take this into account and ensure that distant suburbs do not pay premium fares to go to work. Another public transport target is to diminish number of cars on the street. While fare structure is never a first criteria to measure public transport attractiveness it may quickly become an excuse not to use it for users who still have a choice.
Deciding which fare structure is best suited for a network requires considering significant number of criteria: financial, existing fare structure, simplicity/complexity, network characteristics, social components, attractiveness, multi-modality, multi operability, fraud level, public perception, politics….. and most certainly others that I have forgot to list here.

The solution is always a compromise, keeping it simple is the key to success but it is not an easy endeavour. Authorities have to make decisions early in the project and stick to it during the project: permanent strategy variations are damaging and generally cause lots of problems inducing unwanted complexity. Making it complex is often an easier way but may prove itself extremely difficult to implement and to maintain.

Posted in Fare Structure | Leave a comment

MetroCard aboard trains

Newly refurbished railcar, MetroCard equipped

A two cars train has been fitted with new MetroCard system last week to make sure rail environment was confirming good results obtained on board buses in Adelaide hills. Tests are on-going at time I am writing this article and no major problem has been detected.

One of Adelaide’s ticketing particularity is installing equipment on board trains rather than equipping stations. Main reason behind this is that most stations of Adelaide rail network do not have adequate building infrastructures to accommodate an efficient classic entry/exit control with automatic barrier gates. This “onboard” arrangement is perfectly adapted to local operation, it is very efficient reducing vandalism and optimizing maintenance. Furthermore current passenger traffic is average by heavy mass transit standards and doesn’t justify such investment. Adelaide railway station is the hub for all rail routes, it is equipped with automatic barriers allowing full control of a good 90% of the traffic.

Typical train station

Each railcar is fitted with tri-technology validators (magnetic tickets LoCo, HiCo, contactless cards), mono-technology validators (contactless cards), automatic vending machine and a Driver console in each driving cabin. Vending machines accept coins, give change and in very near future credit cards will be accepted. Passengers can obtain a pre-validated magnetic ticket  for their trip or recharge their MetroCard. Note that recharging MetroCard doesn’t wave necessity to validate trip using validators.


On board automatic vending machine

Train drivers use the console to identify themselves and to set next trip to be done, then everything is automatic thanks to GPS, 3G transmission and inter car communication line.
The unprecedented rail upgrade program currently ongoing will undoubtedly generate a patronage increase in very near future. This has been taken into account by increasing number of validators per door: current system features one validator per door, new MetroCard system has four validators per door. This greatly improve boarding times making it possible to reduce the time spent by the train at each station.

When living in Adelaide, you are never too far from the sea

Like for buses, railcars connect to MetroCard computer centre via 3G which provides rich and reliable means of communication. Credit card module is directly connected the bank via a GPRS connection to ensure security and confidentiality of transactions.

Rollout on all trains is scheduled to start at the end of this trial period.

Posted in Ticketing | 6 Comments

ADELAIDE keeps magnetics

Very early into project definition phase, and this without unvealing any secret, it was clear that chosing a new system based on contactless smart card only was extremely tempting and popular. Messages sent out by fare collection microcosm that magnetic technology was outdated were not contributing to a serene analysis of operation needs.
We stepped back to basics and finally made sure that the need to keep full multi modality for casual users was a must have. This being established, the casual user ticket had to be electronic to allow automatic transfers or multiple uses. The very first finding was that technologies based on paper tickets or light card board tickets could not fulfill the requirements of on board automatic control even if they were fitted with some sort of bar code.

The choice was magnetic tickets or disposable contact less smart cards. At time I am writting these  lines disposable contact less smart card is still about 20 times more expensive than magnetic ticket (Parisian size) and there is no hope that this trend will change in near future. Just to make things a little bit more crisp, within the frame of Adelaide public transport services, additional operational cost linked to the use of disposable smart card is 2 million dollars per annum….The analysis takes into account difference of investment, maintenance costs, ticket/card costs, price evolution of components over 12 years and assumes that a disposal card will be used 5 times. The decision was made easy to make: the future system would use a combination of magnetic tickets and contact less cards.

The system is currently being installed and combines magnetics low coercitivity/low density, magnetics high coercitivity/high density and contact less smart cards (latest DESFIRE generation). This arrangement makes it possible to proceed with a very easy installation where new equipment replaces old equipment and goes back on line. Passengers continue to use current magnetic tickets that they validate indifferently on either type of equipment. Once new system is fully installed, new magnetics will replace old magnetics and contact less smart cards will be introduced to replace Multitrip tickets. Passengers still holding Multitrips will be able to use them long after the introduction of contact less smart cards.

On board sales were also a key factor which has led keeping magnetics. ADELAIDE is a wide spread city featuring a low density population. Numerous public transport network stops are quite far from any point of sale, consequently on board sales is a must to service quality. Magnetic tickets are sold on board by bus Drivers using on board control equipment thanks to a function invented 25 years ago which does not generate any additional investment cost.

Compatibility and easiness of implementation also applies to back office. Data collected by the new system feeds two data bases: the new Oracle data base and the existing data base by creating files in the same format as current memory cassettes. The result is that outputs from both system can be compared avoiding potential polemics linked to interpretation of results.


Posted in Ticketing | Leave a comment

ADELAIDE goes live

Transport Minister Chloe FOX has launched the very first deployment stage of Adelaide new ticketing system the 26th October 2011. Major Australian television channels and local press witnessed the event and were given possibility to try new equipment installed on board latest Scania articulated bus.
Adelaide Hills area has been chosen for live pilot with eleven buses. Passengers are already experimenting the new equipment with enthusiasm. The new validators are processing current low coercivity magnetic tickets fully compatible with the 25 years old current equipment. The back office system is already fully operational generating financial reports, sales accounting, patronage statistics, geo-localisation management and real time data transmission via 3G links.

The new system combines three technologies: low & high coercivity  magnetic tickets, and contact-less card (DesFire EV1) providing seamless transition from  current heritage system to the new Atlas system. Magnetic (HiCo) has been kept to provide  sound economical solution to casual users who will continue to enjoy  benefits of full transferability  between transportation means: buses, trains and trams.

Dual technology validators are installed on board all vehicles following DDA recommended position.

ATLAS uses Google Transit feed for the very first time to update geographical parameters including all route services. Combination between Google Transit feed and  on board GPS results in automatic update of localisation parameters each time a vehicle approaches one of the 10,000 stops of ADELAIDE area.

Installation on board the whole fleet will start early December 2011 and is scheduled to be finished early June 2012. Then  METROCARD, which will replace current MULTITRIP tickets will be gradually phased in. No reason for users to panic, current tickets will remain valid on the system several months after the  introduction of METROCARD.

Links for more:
News sur Channel 7

More pictures on Flickr

Posted in Ticketing | 5 Comments