Ridership Impacts of South Florida’s EASY Smart Card

(Center Identification Number: 77946)

Principal Investigators:

Ann C. Joslin, Senior Research Associate

Phone: 813-974-9183
E-mail: joslin@cutr.usf.edu
Fax: 813-974-5168


William Morris, Senior Research Associate

Phone: 813-974-6804
E-mail: wpmorris@cutr.usf.edu
Fax: 813-974-5168

Center for Urban Transportation Research
University of South Florida

External Project Contact:     

Amy Datz
State Transit Environmental Planner, Florida Deparment of Transportation
Phone: 850-414-4239

I.  Project Objective/Problem Statement/Background


Smart card-based Advanced Fare Collection (AFC) systems are being increasingly deployed in transit systems across the US. Miami-Dade Transit (MDT) has recently deployed such a system branded as the EASY Card. The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA) also deployed the same system for Tri-Rail. The technology provides a stored value electronic purse or the choice of various period passes, and in that respect is similar to smart card systems in other US cities. The Easy Card system will be used as a case study to document some of the issues related to the ridership and customer behavior aspects related to fare policy when smart card systems are introduced. Given the benefits of such AFC systems in terms of reduced fare evasion, cash handling fraud, and transfer abuse, and increased customer convenience, it is likely that other transit systems in Florida will deploy such systems in future years.

One of the difficult challenges relates to the design of the fare structure to take best advantage of the flexibility offered by the smart card system, while minimizing the threat to the system’s revenue stream. Transit managers struggling with this challenge are hampered by a lack of research documenting the experience of the ridership impacts of smart card deployments. Recent literature searches reveal a considerable number of trade journal articles expounding the benefits of smart card systems, or detailing challenges or controversies that have occurred in individual deployments. However, there have been no significant efforts to explore and document what actually happens when smart cards are deployed, and in particular to document the impacts with respect to customer behavior. Therefore, this study will be a case study of South Florida designed to benefit other Florida transit properties and the industry as a whole.

II. Objectives/Tasks

This case study will document issues related to organizational decisionmaking regarding implementation, fare policy, consumption, revenue, ridership and customer behavior aspects related to smart card implementation. It must be noted that successful fulfillment of study objectives will entail the complete cooperation of operating agencies and the availability of data to support the project tasks. Identification of available data will be a part of the investigation process. The objectives of this research are as follows:

• Identify fare policy / structure choices that were made in conjunction with the deployment of smart cards and the agencies’ rationale for policy changes.

• Identify card distribution policies at sales outlets and via the internet.

• Examine the degree to which employers or institutions such as universities are promoting the program for employees and students and the degree of success of such promotions.

• Acquire, analyze and assimilate before and after data, as available from the agencies, to examine sales, revenue, and consumption (ridership) as follows:

o By mode

o By Metrorail and Tri-Rail station or sales outlet

o By route

o Via the internet

o Transfers (intra- and inter-system transfers)

o Fare media type and cash value

• Acquire, analyze and assimilate data on fare policy and pricing. Determine whether there are strategies that promote or incentivise switching from traditional fare media to smart cards based on pricing and/or availability.

• Establish measures for customer convenience in comparison to stated pre-deployment benefits and actual passenger behavior or customer satisfaction based on survey data, if available.

• Catalog issues, as experienced in South Florida, that other transit agencies should be aware of with respect to protecting revenue streams.

• Assess and collect information regarding how agencies address criminal activity including but not limited to: card theft and creation and distribution of fraudulent cards.

• Assess availability of collateral data displaying levels of customer satisfaction, ridership impacts, age, origin/destination and frequency of use and summarize findings.

• Provide an overall summary of lessons learned and pitfalls to avoid when implementing an AFC system so that other agencies may benefit from the South Florida experience.

Research Tasks:

Task 1: Conduct Literature Review

A literature review will be conducted to identify industry trends and perspectives on smart card implementation. The previous NCTR study, “Regional Fare Policy and Fare Allocation, Innovations in Fare Equipment and Data Collection,” will be used for the literature review and complemented with any more recent literature available. While previous studies have addressed institutional barriers to regionalizing fare payment, this study will focus on the operational and customer impacts of deployment.

 Task 2: Data Collection and Analysis

The research team will work closely with Miami-Dade Transit and SFRTA to gather the maximum amount of data available to analyze. It is anticipated that data collection will entail the organizational functions in charge of farebox data, ticket machine data, and financial data to include sales. This task will document fare policies before and after implemention and record all modifications. Before and after farebox and financial reports will be collected to document sales, revenue and ridership, and identify and isolate external factors that may impact ridership (if any). An analysis will be conducted on trends of pick-up rates of EASY Card, both in terms of absolute numbers by type of media used, and if possible by socio-demographic characteristics of riders. If available, market research/focus group results will also be analyzed. The central questions to be analyzed as part of the data collection will be:

1. Which customer markets are switching from traditional fare media to EASY Card?

2. What is the growth rate of EASY Card use in post implementation?

3. Which fare categories are most impacted by EASY Card from a pre- and post-implementation perspective?

4. Which modes of service are configured to accept EASY Card?

5. Which modes and routes are experiencing the greatest utilization?

6. Even with the availability of EASY Card on the web and at sales outlets, are there still equity and/or civil rights issues for customers who may not have access to distribution outlets? Are there any issues with ADA and Environmental Justice compliance?

7. How have the agencies promoted switching to EASY Card and what kind of incentives are cited, if any?

8. What are the purchasing trends with cash values versus fare media?

9. What is the impact of maintaining co-existing traditional fare media with EASY Card fare media versus eliminating traditional fare media in favor of EASY Card?

10. How are transfer policies and revenue integrity being addressed for transfers between Tri-Rail, Metro-Rail and Metro-Bus?

11. Are employers and institutions promoting and utilizing EASY Card?

12. Is card theft and/or counterfeiting an issue?

13. Is there data on customer satisfaction or proven increases in ridership?

Task 3: Interviews with Key Staff at Tri-Rail and Miami-Dade Transit

Interviews will be conducted after data collection and analysis have been completed to gain input, insight and assistance with interpreting results of the analyses. Specifically, staff will be asked to provide insights and opportunities for future interoperability of the smart card technology as a means of streamlining fare media, enhancing customer satisfaction but also maximizing revenue streams. Staff will also be asked to provide input on the level of staffing and organizational resources required to operate the program, including sales, customer service and maintenance of equipment.

Task 4: Outreach to other Florida Transit Agencies

The research team will contact other transit agencies in Florida who may be contemplating smart card upgrades or are interested in exploring this technology in the future. CUTR will assess the kinds of organizational strategies that would be necessary to implement such a program based on the Miami-Dade/SFRTA experience.

Task 5: Synthesis of Results

All data and elements of the previous tasks will be summarized and presented as a synthesis of results in a draft and final report. The synthesis will include impacts of smart card implementation on the organizations, customers and customer behavior. The synthesis will also identify possible measures to increase utilization of the program further and identify areas for future research. A final report will also identify issues and lessons learned from South Florida for other transit agencies to consider in the future.

Work not included in this scope of service is not to be performed and will not be subject to compensation by the Department.

III. Deliverables

Deliverables for this project will include the following:

Kick Off Meeting

A kick-off meeting shall be scheduled to occur within the first 30 days of execution by the university. The preferred method for the kick-off meeting is via teleconference or video conference. At a minimum, the project manager and the principal investigator will attend. The Research Center staff must be advised of the meeting and given the option to attend. Other parties may be invited, as appropriate. The subject of the meeting will be to review and discuss the project’s tasks, schedule, milestones, deliverables, reporting requirements, and deployment plan. A summary of the kick-off meeting shall be included in the first progress report.

Progress Reports

The Contractor shall submit quarterly progress reports to the Research Center according to calendar quarters (Jan-Mar; Apr-Jun; Jul-Sep; Oct-Dec). The first report will cover the activity that occurred in the Quarter following the issuance of the task work order. Reports will be submitted within 30 days of the end of the reporting period.

Progress reports will include the following information:

1. Contract Number, Work Order Number and Title,

2. Work performed during the period being reported,

3. Work to be performed in the following period,

4. Anticipated modifications (i.e., to funding, schedule, or scope), and

5. A Progress Schedule updated to reflect activities for the

period being reported.

The report will include the amount of funding invoiced, and the amount to be invoiced during the quarter along with the percent of the total funded amount with the latter invoicing.

Draft Final Report

The Draft Final Report will be submitted 90 days prior to the end date of the task work order. It will be prepared in accordance with the Research Center’s Guidelines for Preparing Draft Final and Final Reports. The Draft Final Report will be reviewed by a professional editor, with editorial recommendations accomplished prior to submittal to the department. A Word version of the draft final report will be submitted to Sandra Bell at sandra.bell@dot.state.fl.us. A printed, double sided, color copy, of the Draft Final Report will be submitted to the Project Manager.

Final Reports

Once the Draft Final Report has been approved, the university shall prepare the Final Report. The university will deliver a minimum of eight (8) copies on CD or DVD – seven (7) CDs will contain the final report in PDF format, one (1) CD will contain the final report in PDF format, MS Word format and a Summary of the Final Report.

The Florida Department of Transportation

Research Center, MS 30

605 Suwannee Street

Tallahassee, FL 32399-0450

Closeout Meeting

A closeout meeting shall be scheduled to occur in the final 30 days of the project. The purpose of the closeout meeting is to conduct a review of project performance, the deployment plan, and next steps. Attendees shall include, at a minimum, the project manager, the principal investigator, and the Research Center performance coordinator. This meeting will occur prior to the expiration of the contract and subsequent to the approval of the draft final report.


IV. Project Schedule

Start Date:  November 2011               Expected End Date: May 2013

V. Project Budget

Total Lump Sum Amount (Salaries and Benefits)            $93,384.66

Cost Reimbursable Subtotal                                                  $2,800.00

Indirect Cost (subtotal x 10%)                                                   $280.00

Total Project Cost                                                                  $96,464.66

VI. Equipment

No equipment is anticipated nor requested for the completion of this study.

VII. Travel

Travel is anticipated for two people to take two trips to Miami-Dade/Pompano Beach (offices of Miami-Dade Transit and the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (Tri-Rail). Miami-Dade Transit is a large and complex organization wherein many of the data sets needed for this project are likely located in different parts of the organization and the research team must be able to extract a significant amount of data in order to complete the study. Interactions with SFRTA will prove to be equally invaluable. Also, the research team needs to make observations at stations with fare payment equipment and have a thorough understanding of the technology. No travel will be initiated or undertaken without prior written request and written consent of the FDOT project manager. All travel shall be in accordance with Section 112.061, Florida Statutes. FDOT employees may not travel on research contracts.  

VIII. Personnel

Ann Joslin was the principal investigator of the previous NCTR study, “Regional Fare Policy and Fare Allocation, Innovations in Fare Equipment and Data Collection,” and is familiar with electronic fare payment systems. Ms. Joslin will oversee the entire effort and be integrally involved in all data analysis, outreach to Florida transit agencies and development of the final report.

William Morris is a Senior Research Associate and has conducted studies on fare policy and fare changes for transit systems and has extensive working knowledge of transit farebox and revenue data, including fare revenue yields and fare elasticity. Mr. Morris will be integral in gathering data from the transit systems and developing the approach to data analysis and synthesis. Mr. Morris will also oversee graduate students in literature reviews and database management.

Chris DeAnnuntis is a Senior Research Associate and has significant operations background working with farebox hardware and software and will play a support role in data analysis and synthesis.

Melisssa DeLeon is a Research Support Specialist and will support faculty in gathering of literature and assessing literature for sufficiency in the literature review. Ms. DeLeon also assists with report production.

Work not included in this scope of service is not to be performed and will not be subject to compensation by the Department.

Use of Graduate Student(s) and other Research Assistants

Brian Warren, an undergraduate assistant will be used in the project to conduct literature reviews and to develop database management for data garnered from the transit agencies.  No tuition reimbursement is sought under this scope of services.

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