The ability to collect and verify fares is critical to the success of the VRE operation. While VRE is a subsidized system, we have a mandate to cover at least 50% of operating expenses through fare revenue. Making sure every rider has paid their fare, reduces the burden on the jurisdictions for the subsidy they provide to support VRE, and helps keep the need for fare increases to a minimum. Keeping the process of collecting the fare and verifying payment as simple and convenient as possible, while being cost effective, has always been our goal.
The current primary fare collection system, which consists of the platform Ticket Vending Machines (TVMs) and the vendor location machines, was put into service in 2002. This paper ticket system utilizing magnetic stripe encoding has been upgraded at different points, most recently in 2010 and 2011 when the internal computer and the pinpad were upgraded to comply with the Payment Card Industry (PCI) data security standards for the protection of cardholder information. We now have an upgrade underway which will effectively replace every major component in the system, leaving just the stainless steel cabinets from the original system. This upgrade includes:
1. New touch screens to replace the existing optical sensor touchscreens, which have become obsolete. This should eliminate the calibration issues which cause the current screens to not react properly when touched. The current monitors can be affected by small dust or dirt particles which block the optical sensors. The new technology is more like current cell phone screens, not relying on optical sensors.
2. New pinpads for entering debit pin numbers. The upgraded system will comply with the latest Europay Mastercard Visa (EMV) standards, utilizing the embedded chips in the cards for greater security.
3. New, more reliable credit card reader.
4. New computer with upgraded software and operating system, making the system more stable and dependable.
5. New magnetic stripe read/write head and ticket printing mechanism. This component alone should reduce the current issues of improperly validating tickets, capturing tickets, or the issuance of Validation Error Receipts.
6. Pre-configuration for contactless payment types. While not immediately available, the upgraded system will be expandable to allow for contactless payments which could include Apple Pay and Android Pay.
7. Audio jack for the vision impaired so headphones may be utilized in conjunction with the audio commands.
Design and manufacturing is currently underway.
In 2015, to enhance the fare collections system, VRE launched VRE Mobile. This mobile ticketing system, provided by moovel NA (formerly GlobeSherpa), enables passengers to purchase, validate, and display tickets on their smart phones. Besides being convenient for any passenger, allowing them to bypass the TVMs, VRE Mobile can also accommodate SmartBenefits recipients and those passengers who qualify for reduced fare pricing. While mobile tickets must still be validated prior to boarding the train, the validation is done on the phone itself. Purchases may be done anytime and anywhere, as long as there is a network connection. Since nearly every VRE rider carries a smart phone, we suggest everyone consider moving to VRE Mobile. Our Communications Specialists are available to assist with the transition to mobile from 6 am to 7 pm every operating day at our main office (703) 684-1001. In addition to being convenient for the passenger, VRE Mobile helps lower the overall cost of fare collections, making VRE even more efficient.
Image: Current TVM (left). TVM prototype (right).