Unveiling the Multifaceted Essence of AFC Systems

November 27, 2019

Automated Fare Collection (AFC) Systems are often hailed as heralds of innovation in the transit sector, particularly for their capability to introduce modern payment options. However, it is pivotal to understand that the profundity of AFC systems transcends beyond merely facilitating diverse payment methodologies. Such a narrowed perspective can eclipse the core essence and purpose derived from its nomenclature - to systematically collect fares, not just to offer varied payment avenues.

Understanding Beyond Payment Options

The quintessential misconception revolves around associating AFC systems predominantly with the advent of novel payment options. Unfortunately, this rather elementary and layperson perspective obscures the cardinal philosophy behind the AFC system. True, innovative payment methods are a component, but it’s a piece of a much larger, intricate puzzle.

Potential Pitfalls of Improper Implementation

Noteworthy is the fact that improperly or haphazardly implemented payment options could potentially misdirect passengers, impair fare collection efficiency, and inadvertently elevate instances of fare evasion and fraud. Ironically, it’s not essentially the payment methods, nor the expedience of monetary transactions that pivotally drive passenger traffic.

Passenger Experience is Paramount

If a passenger necessitates travel, they will invariably utilize public transport, irrespective of the available payment options. Undoubtedly, it is the holistic travel experience that magnetizes traffic towards public transport. Ergo, when instigating AFC systems, the initial focus should align not primarily with payment options - a field where surprising passengers with card acceptance, for instance, is no longer a novelty - but rather, it should emphasize cultivating passenger loyalty and fostering timely, comprehensive fare payments. This can be realized through streamlining ticket purchasing processes, introducing financially advantageous multi-ride tickets to incentivize advanced payments, and minimizing fare collection costs.

The Obligations of AFC System Operators

While the technical framework of an AFC system may operate without a hitch, it might still fall short of achieving its primary objectives if it’s not aligned with and configured towards those ends. It becomes the duty of AFC system operators to implement the system in a configuration that strategically aligns with and facilitates the realization of these objectives. Distressingly, there are instances where contemplation about the outcomes and efficiencies of implementations are considered post-factum, a phase where acknowledging the futility of expended budgets and efforts becomes a bitter pill to swallow.

Expertise as a Crucial Facet

A prevailing yet misguided belief exists that innovations or technologies, in and of themselves, will miraculously resolve issues. Irrespective of how innovative or advanced a technology may be, it won’t resolve problems if it’s not designed to address them or if it’s erroneously implemented. This underscores why expertise, particularly in this multifaceted domain that intersects knowledge of public transport operations, payment technologies, and contactless functionalities, becomes crucial.

At the Automated Fare Collection System Operators Association (AFCSOA), we engage in a meticulous analysis, collection, and development of a knowledge base and best practices for the judicious implementation of AFC systems. We strive to safeguard public transport stakeholders, including cities, transit agencies, and operators, from undergoing experiences that, while seemingly innovative on the surface, could potentially be detrimental due to misconceived perceptions and implementations.