How Touchless fare validators can increase driver and passenger safety in a post-COVID era

The COVID-19 crisis has officially put a stranglehold on America’s way of life. Public transportation, as we know it, has been widely disrupted. Work from home will probably not continue at the same level it is today. Transit ridership will likely rebound however new best practices will emerge with regard to passenger health and safety.

While the recent innovations in transforming urban mobility and environmental sustainability, including Mobility as a Service, autonomous and electric vehicles, and ridesharing will likely continue, we will also see new innovations to enhance driver and rider health safety. Is your agency prepared for the changes in social interactions and to restore the rider’s confidence in the system?

Transit agencies around North America are currently faced with the challenges of temporary fare suspension, service reductions, higher cleaning costs, and a severe decrease in ridership. Many agencies have adopted rear door boarding in recent weeks to avoid overcrowding near the driver area. However, they have had to go fare-free due to the lack of technology available to facilitate fare collection at the rear-door.

Touchless fare validators that use Internet of Things technology can enable continued fare collection and, at the same time, enhance driver and passenger safety with all-door boarding.

These over the air validators consist of Bluetooth-based sensors the size of your smart phone, making them a flexible solution that can be affixed almost anywhere. Moreover, they are 3-10 times less expensive than other fare boxes or validators currently on the market.

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These sensors can be installed at the rear or front doors of buses and will connect seamlessly with the user’s smartphone to check for fare purchases as they board. A visual display unit installed up-front allows drivers to monitor boarding.

Allowing riders to use both sets of doors has the potential to reduce boarding times by as much as 50 percent.

Here are the key benefits of these over-the-air fare validators in the post-Covid19 era:

  • Riders purchase tickets via smartphones from their homes, avoiding a visit to transit centers or grocery stores;
  • Riders can board using the front or rear door, distancing the driver from passengers;
  • The sensors issue signals to the driver upfront to enable them to monitor for fraud;
  • The mobile phones can stay in the rider’s pocket or bag, and the signal is automatically picked up by the Bluetooth sensors. This ensures more rapid onboarding without line-ups;
  • This touchless system avoids multiple people touching farebox surfaces;
  • Live reports allow drivers to monitor boarding via a display unit and provides real-time vehicle’s capacity to passengers who wish to avoid over-crowded buses;
  • Drivers and control rooms can receive signals for alarms or alerts raised by fellow passengers, triggering fraud, human trafficking or other undesirable situations.

This technology also can provide real-time streaming data directly from vehicles. Bluetooth sensors stream real-time bus location, passenger capacity, speed, origin, and destination of trips in seconds directly to the cloud. Today’s transportation decision-making is made of assumptions, while Internet of Things provides new data-driven technology that can offer real insights for public transportation users and providers.

Transit Authority of River City (TARC) in Louisville KY is the first agency to successfully install such over-the-air fare validators on their fleet to enable mobile payments with seamless boarding capabilities. “The Mobile Ticketing powered by ZED Digital provides another means of fare payment where everything that is needed is already in the user’s pocket.  The solution is touchless, stand alone, and a positive addition to existing fare collection solutions.  The solution is a reasonably priced way to get into the touchless fare collection and mobile ticketing options in your system.” Says Dwight Maddox, IT director at TARC.