Transit Customer Acceptance of Automated Fare Collection Systems

Journal of Public Transportation Article in Volume 2, Issue 3 (1999) by Peter J Foote, Ross T Patronsky, Darwin G Stuart, Chicago Transit Authority           

Abstract

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) inaugurated an Automated Fare Collection (AFC) system in Fall 1997. More than 1 million daily rides now utilize AFC to access CTA’s bus and rail service networks. While this represents about three-fourths of all CTA riders, many have stayed with cash or tokens (though the latter are now being phased out); monthly passes have been fully integrated with the farecard technology. This article provides a one-year perspective on customer reactions to, acceptance of, and problems with the new AFC system. It examines “before” and “after” shifts among the various fare media options available, and discusses major differences for bus and rail customers regarding ease of purchasing automated farecards and the resultant greater usage levels for rail as compared to bus. This article also reviews behavior in purchasing precoded, fixed-value farecards; buying variable-value farecards at automated vending machines (AVMs) located at rail stations; and recharging previously purchased farecards at those AVMs. Systemwide customer satisfaction surveys conducted in 1995 and 1997 found that satisfaction ratings, particularly among bus riders, significantly improved for several different fare-related service attributes. Transactions handled by rail station customer assistants, the CTA customer service hot line, and its AFC express unit desk, in dealing with customer questions/problems regarding the new AFC equipment, are also discussed. Typical weekday complaint levels related to AFC–especially those involving refund requests–are quite modest, but require sustained levels of courtesy and quick response.