Anticipate challenges in planning and deploying smart card technology in a rural environment.
New Mexico's experience with the implementation of Intelligent Coordinated Transit Smart Card Technology.
Some of the capacity issues that the New Mexico Department of Transportation experienced during the deployment of the ICTransit Card System are identified below.
- Recognize that support resources will be limited in rural areas. Rural areas typically have limited local resources and dollars so staffing needs for transit providers are difficult to fulfill and funding is at a minimum. Agency staff will be relying heavily on contractor staff to provide most if not all of the technical support during system implementation. Geographic distances will add to the challenge of scheduling and resolving technical issues and may add to the cost.
- Understand that transit personnel will have limited computer skills. The software developer ATR Institute was able to provide the necessary training and produced simplified user friendly manuals. Training takes time and will be ongoing.
- Develop a training plan. Even when the staff and drivers are enthusiastic about the new equipment, their daily routines will take precedence over learning new operations. Drivers will have a tendency to revert back to the manual systems. Developing the training capacity of the drivers may be difficult. A systematic training plan is necessary to overcome this difficulty.
- Anticipate slower internet connections. Many rural areas do not have access to DSL or broadband communications, therefore the system has to communicate using dial up service. In the case of the ICTransit system, the data accountability and the synchronization process are not hindered by the connection time; however the slower connections had some impact on the input features of data input under the CRRAFT (Client Referral, Ridership, and Financial Tracking) system.
- Expect to fund hardware and communications upgrades to implement smart card technology. Transit providers in small towns and villages lack the computer resources because budgets are usually already very lean.
- Obtain operations support during implementation. Limited resources of a rural agency may require the contractor to provide operations support in addition to the technical deployment support. For the ICTransit project the contractor staffed a Help Desk that proved to be invaluable. Agency staff could work out issues on a one-on-one basis and were oftentimes able to resolve issues the same day. In other instances, a trainer would do a "ride-along" with a transit driver to detect a problem the system might be having.
Deploying smart card technology in a rural environment in New Mexico has had challenges to overcome. This lesson suggests that these challenges can be resolved if anticipated and planned for accordingly. For the ICTransit System these challenges were addressed with only minimal delay to the schedule and the system was implemented successfully. Having enthusiastic transit providers throughout the area that were willing to work with and support the contractors contributed to this success.
The ICTransit Card system goals provided a positive contribution to achieving several ITS goals including improving safety and mobility and providing a productive and efficient transportation system. The NMDOT and the NMHSD have enhanced the performance of the rural transit agencies of New Mexico and are providing more efficient service across agency jurisdictions by implementing the ICTransit smart card system.
Intelligent, Coordinated Transit Smart Card Technology (ICTransit Card)
Author: ATR Institute, University of New Mexico
Published By: U.S. DOT Federal Transit Administration
Source Date: 9/1/2005
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smart cards, electronic fare payment, SmartCard, smart card, SmartCards