BART riders are now one step closer to paying for their fares with their mobile phones.
Starting on Monday, May 11, BART Board Vice President and longest-serving board member, James Fang, will present world technology leaders with the results of a four-month trial in which more than 200 riders tested paying for their transit trips with specially equipped Sprint wireless phones.
The Near Field Communications (NFC) World Europe 2009 conference invited BART to present the results of the BART/Sprint trial, which took place between January and May 2008. BART is the only American transit agency presenting at the conference and was the first U.S. transit agency to test this technology.
"This is a very exciting and prestigious opportunity for BART to show the world just how successful our trial was," Fang said. "With four billion people wireless subscribers worldwide, these days it seems almost everybody carries a mobile phone. This trial demonstrated that not only does the technology work flawlessly – it also showed that our riders love the convenience of being able to pay for their trips with the very thing they carry every day – a mobile phone – which they simply tap on top of the faregate to pay for their ride."
THE ULTIMATE UNIVERSAL & ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY TICKET
A NFC enabled phones is perhaps the ultimate "universal" and environmentally friendly train ticket. BART uses approximately 32 million paper tickets annually and disposes of 450,000 used paper tickets per week. This technology would help reduce the use of paper tickets. "Once mobile phone providers start offering customers with NFC enabled phones and other transit agencies incorporate NFC technology in their faregates, then a person could use their phone to pay for their BART ride to the airport, jump on a plane, land in say, New York and use their phone to pay for their fare on the subway there – all electronically without ever having to print a paper ticket," Fang said. "BART has a history of leading the nation with cutting edge technology by being the first fully automated train system in the U.S. when it opened nearly 37 years ago. This trial shows our commitment to staying at the forefront of cutting edge technology. And while other countries like China and Japan already use NFC technology regularly, our successful trial makes BART the model transit agency on how to properly implement this technology in the U.S."
HOW THIS FIRST-IN-NATION TRIAL WORKED
There have been a few trials around the country using NFC technology, however the BART trial was much different from the others in that it was the first to give participants the added benefit of automatically receiving the discounts and offers which companies usually only provide to customers who have enrolled in their loyalty programs. In the past, other pay-by-mobile-phone trials have just allowed customers to pay for goods and services using a credit card tied to their phone, which often prevented them from automatically receiving the discounts merchants provide. However, in this trial participants automatically received the 6.25% discount BART provides those who purchase high-value tickets.
"In BART’s case, a participant began with a stored value of $48 worth of BART rides loaded onto their NFC enabled mobile phone," BART Director James Fang said. "Once the stored value dropped below $10 the NFC technology automatically reloaded the phone ‘over the air’ with another $48 worth of rides and the customer automatically received our high-value discount, so they were only charged $45."
PAYING BY MOBILE PHONE MAY BE THE WAY OF THE WORLD
In the coming years, the industry predicts that people will use their mobile phones not only to talk, but also to pay for transit, parking, food, clothes, etc for any company or agency that has the NFC compatible readers. This means BART customers with NFC enabled mobile phones could pay for not only transit trips, but services and products at other transit agencies, retailers or companies with the NFC compatible readers.
The mobile phone industry envisions that 30% to 40% of wireless phones will have NFC compatible chips embedded in the phones in the coming years.
"NFC technology is the wave of the future. It provides convenience and is eco-friendly," Fang said. "Being invited to speak at this conference and exchange new ideas on this technology is a confirmation that BART yet again is a leader in public transit technology. I look forward to representing BART at the conference and telling the international community the exciting foray success of America's premier transit district."
People in areas of Europe, Japan and Hong Kong use their mobile phones to pay for different services and to identify themselves when they check in at access points such as at an airport security gate.
Currently, NFC enabled phones are not publicly available in the U.S. Advancing the technology through trials such as this one drives demand for NFC applications and technology implementation, and brings the technology closer to consumers.
There have been several tests and pilots around the world where consumers have used their NFC enabled phones to pay for goods or as their transit card. In the US, there have been major trials in New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Dallas.
NFC enabled mobile phones are compatible with contactless payment terminals at many retail locations in the US. Anywhere MasterCard PayPass, Visa PayWave, or American Express’s Blue card are accepted, an NFC enabled phone could be accepted (with the proper payment card loaded into the phone). Currently there are approximately 75,000 merchant locations in the US that accept contactless cards and NFC enabled payment phones.