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The collection, processing and safekeeping of passenger fare revenues and ridership data are
essential and important to a public transit system. The development of registering farebox
systems and advancements in support technology and software systems has provided the transit
industry with a number of advances and efficiencies in the fare revenue and passenger recording

Electronic Fare Payment (EFP) systems, also known as Automatic Fare Collection (AFC)
systems, use electronic communication, data processing, and data storage techniques to automate
manual fare collection processes. The use of this technology makes fare payment more
convenient for travelers and revenue collection less costly for transit providers.

EFP systems reduce labor-intensive cash handling costs and risk of theft, improve reliability and
maintainability of fare boxes, and permit sophisticated fare pricing – based on distance traveled
and time of day.

EFP systems permit the automation of accounting and financial settlement processes and creates
multimodal and multi-provider transportation networks that are seamless to the rider, but
operationally and organizationally sound for multiple providers.

Electronic fare media – either in the form of magnetic stripe cards or smart cards – are capable of
storing information in a read and/or write format.

Magnetic Stripe Cards:

The most common type of electronic media used in transit EFP systems is the magnetic stripe
cards – standard “credit-card” sized devices using international standards (ISO) for the encoding
of digital data on a machine readable magnetic stripe embedded on the card. The inexpensive
cost, proven technology, and high consumer acceptance of magnetic stripe cards have made them
successful in the transit industry.

Magnetic stripes can be imprinted on cards made of heavy paper, thin plastic, or heavier plastic
such as that used for standard credit cards and ATM cards. A number of transit authorities use
read-only magnetic stripes for buses and subways.

Magnetic stripe cards that are read-write capable can also be used as stored value cards. Stored
value fare cards hold value worth more than one transit fare. Because fares are deducted in an
automated fashion, time-based and/or distance-based fare structures are possible. Stored value
cards also store information that can be used in multi-operator transit networks. Trip origins and
destinations can be recorded on cards and subsequently read and used to split revenues between
the different transit operators. Magnetic stripe cards can also be used as an “electronic purse”
where stored value can be used for small purchased from cooperating merchants.

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Smart Cards:

Smart cards, sometimes called integrated circuit (IC) cards, are

similar to magnetic stripe cards – but store the information on an
embedded microcomputer chip rather than the stripe. The term
“smart card” is a generic name for cards that vary in their
sophistication and design. Most smart cards require readers like
the magnetic stripe cards, but with specialized contacts.

The two types of smart cards used in the transit industry are:

• Contact Smart Cards: Integrated Circuit (IC) smart cards

each contain a microcomputer in addition to electronically
erasable programmable memory (EEPROM) and read-only
memory (ROM). The EEPROM can be used to store
information on the cash content of the card (use history and other data subject to change).
ROM is used for storing the microprocessor’s operating program, as well as card
identification number for some transactions, guarding against tampering, and providing
for data encryption, for security and privacy purposes, if necessary.

• Proximity Smart Cards: Proximity, or contactless, cards can be used for identification
purposes. Proximity ID cards simply identify their presence in the vicinity of a card-
reading unit. They also share similarities with non-rewritable stripe cards such as ATM or
credit cards. They are used for keyless entry systems, personnel identification, and
inventory security in stores. In transit fare applications, they provide the operational
capabilities for time-based and distance-based fare structure, inter-modal and inter-
operator transfers, and ancillary use as an “electronic coin purse” for small non-transit
purchases with sophisticated security capabilities.

Smart cards offer the following benefits over magnetic-stripe media for use in multipurpose

• The higher expected reliability of smart cards and the supporting equipment

• The greater data and processing capabilities of smart cards

• The move toward adoption of smart cards by the banking and financial services industries
– and the potential for joint arrangements

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Cost Categories for EFP Systems:

The major cost categories to be considered when planning for new EFP systems include:
• System design and development effort
• Procurement and installation of fare collection and dispensing equipment
• Procurement and installation of computer system
• Installation and modification of communications system and infrastructure
• Purchase and production of fare media
• Day-to-day administration
• Maintenance and repair
• Marketing
• Sales and distribution
• Revenue accounting
• Training (administrative, maintenance, operators, and the passenger)

Target Objectives and Benefits of EFP Systems:

The introduction of electronic fare payment would be expected to produce various benefits to a
transit agency. These include:

• Improved flexibility: in terms of the range of fare options that can be offered and the
ability to modify the fare structure

• Improved revenue accounting and security: in terms of improved ability to track

transactions and discourage employee theft or mishandling of fare revenues

• Reduced fare abuse: including reduction of counterfeiting of media and short payment or
illegal reuse of media (primarily transfers). If bill and coin validators are part of the
farebox system, the use of foreign currency, arcade tokens, and other forms of non-valid
currency are eliminated.

• Improved ridership data: generated from fare payment

• Reduced operator and rider interaction and administrative and operational

requirements: that is, related to the need for operators to sell and verify the validity of
media (e.g., flash passes and transfer, in particular)

• Improved convenience for riders: for purchasing and using the media

• Ancillary revenue: from float and unused value on stored-value cards

• Expansion of employer programs: passes easier to distribute through employer

programs, often at subsidized rates, thus promoting new passengers and additional
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The additional advantages of contactless card systems for transit agencies are as follows:

• Potential for lower fare collection equipment maintenance costs, because there are no
moving parts in the read-write units

• Greater reliability of equipment, because there are no open slots that can be jammed
(e.g., from insertion of foreign objects)

• Greater convenience for riders, especially for elderly and disabled riders who may have
difficulty inserting a card

• Faster boarding of buses and entry through turnstiles



Florida’s Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) was selected as the

transit agency to present a case study of the implementation of the
Electronic Fare Payment system technology. PSTA provides public
transportation to Pinellas County, Florida – with the major metropolitan
areas of St. Petersburg and Clearwater. PSTA currently operates 133
buses in the peak period and carried approximately 10,119,000 passengers

PSTA, similar to many public transportation systems, has progressed through different types of
fare revenue collection systems. The most recent history being:

 Installation of GFI Genfare CENTSaBILL electronic registering fareboxes in the late


 Upgrade of the CENTSaBILL units with the addition of the Ticket Reader/Issue
Machine, commonly referred to the GFI TRiM unit, in 1995

 System-wide transition to the GFI Genfare Odyssey Electronic Revenue Center system
in mid 2001

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Overview of GFI Genfare Systems Used By PSTA:

To provide the reader with an understanding of the features of each of the three phases of GFI
Genfare revenue collection systems used by PSTA – as well as the upgrades and additional
features and benefits provided by each subsequent technology – a brief overview of the GFI
Genfare revenue collection systems is presented.

The GFI Genfare’s CENTSaBILL Electronic Registering Farebox provides for

the rapid collection and driver verification of deposited coins and dollar bills in a
high-security setting. A 16-button keypad allows the driver to record fare types.
Route/run segmenter software provides additional data reporting capabilities as well
as complete breakdown of passenger and revenue information. The CENTSaBILL
cashbox has tamper-proof electronic identification numbers, automatically locks
when removed, and has separate sections for coins and bills. Several optional
features are available to provide enhanced security, transactional database software,
transfer printers, and the Transfer Reader/Issue Machine (TRiM).

The GFI Genfare Transfer Reader/Issue Machine – or

TRiM – is an optional accessory to the CENTSaBILL farebox.
The TRiM prints and issues magnetic tickets or transfers using inexpensive,
non-negotiable, paper or plastic stock. TRiM also automatically reads and
validates transfers issued by other TRiM units. It can process all types of
magnetic documents, allow maximum fare collection flexibility. TRiM
units require the magnetic ticket media to be passed through the reader. In
conjunction with the CENTSaBILL system, revenue and passenger data are

The latest generation of GFI Genfare bus mounted farebox systems is its
Odyssey Electronic Revenue Center system. The Odyssey consolidates all
functions in one space saving unit, providing new and innovative features as
well as improving data registration, security and ease of operations. The
Odyssey is supported by a new GFI data system that provides built-in custom
operations and report generation. The system is transactional based and
includes revenue reports, card usage reports, fleet operations reports, and
security/audit reports. The Odyssey can be programmed to accept cash,
proximity smartcards, credit cards, transfers and magnetic cards. The
Odyssey accepts and validates coins and bills; and, returns unacceptable coins
and bills to passengers. The Odyssey is supported by GFI’s V7 data system
software that works with the Windows 95/NT operating platform. The V7
ODBC export option transfers the GFI V7 data files in standard data base
format for special reporting by most commercial applications, including adhoc
reporting and spreadsheet programs. The V7 data system is LAN compatible.

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Additional information on GFI Genfare products is accessible from their website:

Similar information on other vendors supplying EFP fare collecting systems can be obtained by
visiting the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) website:

GFI Genfare Budgetary Price Quotations:

January 2003 GFI Genfare provided budgetary quotations for their two EFP bus mounted
farebox systems. These quotes were provided for budgetary purposes for an imaginary 100
farebox bus system, assuming no available existing reusable equipment. Actual prices would
vary with time, system needs, and existing situations. One final caveat was that these costs did
not include any capital improvement costs related to necessary modifications to money counting
rooms, etc.

With those caveats, full 100 unit fare revenue collection systems with all necessary support
equipment, tickets, spare parts, and installation were estimated to cost:

GFI Genfare EFP System Total Price Unit Price

 CENTSaBILL with TRiM Units $1,142,450 $11,424.50 per unit

 Odyssey $1,319,199 $13,191.00 per unit

PSTA’s Transition Process of Adding TRiM Units to CENTSaBILL Fareboxes:

The following section will attempt to highlight the background, actions and results related to
PSTA’s decision to add the GFI Genfare TRiM units to their CENTSaBILL fareboxes in 1995.

First, PSTA’s strategic approach was directed toward these issues:

 Improving the farebox recovery ratio
 Establishment of value-based fares while encouraging increased ridership and new riders
 Streamlining the bus operator’s responsibilities in handling fare collections
 Making the boarding process more efficient and user friendly

The conclusion was that all of these strategic issues could be positively impacted by the
elimination of transfers. This lead to PSTA’s decision to add TRiM units to the existing
CENTSaBILL fareboxes. This represented a $540,000 capital purchase which was funded from
Federal Transit Administration funding.

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With implementation of TRiM units PSTA also introduced the following changes to their fare

 Base fare stayed at $1

 Eliminated 10 and 20-ride punch cards
 Added 20-ride premium card for express service at $27
 Monthly passes transitioned into “31-day passes” and the prices increased from $38 to
$40 for regular and stayed the same ($25) for reduced fare.
 Weekly pass transitioned to 7-day pass and its price increased from $11 to $12
 A daily pass was introduced at $2.50 regular and $1.25 reduced.

PSTA’s TRiM units special features:

 Permitted the sharing of the farebox logic for tasks such as issuance, receipt, reading,
writing and printing of fare cards
 Encoded and issued a fare card or emergency transfer from the TRiM unit, utilizing
magnetic stripe ticket
 Received previously encoded fare cards, with date, and time.

PSTA Results With TRiM Units and New Fare Structure:

The following table documents the positive impacts that the TRiM units and the revised fare
policies had on PSTA ridership, passenger revenue, and use of pre-paid passes for the first two
years following installation and implementation:

 Revenue passengers increased 9.1%

 The increase in passenger revenue was even more pronounced, increasing by 27.4%
 The average passenger fare increased by 18.3%
 The number of passengers using pre-paid fare media rose from 17% to over 60%

FY 94-95 FY 95-96 FY 96-97 % CHANGE

Revenue Passengers 7,993,849 8,299,915 8,717,827 +9.1%
Passenger Revenue $4,832,700 $5,727,235 $6,157,84 +27.4%
Average Fare $ 0.60 $ 0.69 $ 0.71 +18.3%
% of Passengers
Using Prepaid Fare 16.8% 56.6% 60.2% ---
% of Revenue
Using Prepaid Fare 15.0% 50.1% 54.0% ---

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Next Assessment of PSTA Fare Collection Technology and Structure:

As PSTA’s original GFI Genfare CENTSaBILL fareboxes aged, their reliability decreased and
maintenance requirements increased, PSTA decided to pursue an assessment of the fare
collection policies and system. In early 2000, working in cooperation with the Pinellas County
MPO, PSTA contracted with the consulting firm of Tinsdale-Oliver and Associates, Inc. of
Tampa, Florida to conduct an assessment of the PSTA fare collection technology and structure.

This report examined several factors related to the fare collection process, including: a review of
the existing system, data collection needs, fare strategies and payment options, and a review of

The study was completed in July 2000 and among the recommendations, those related to farebox
systems and technology were:

 To replace the aging fare revenue collection system due to its reduced reliability and
increased maintenance requirements.

 That the new system be upgraded to a state-of-the-art magnetic stripe technology, which
supports period passes, stored-ride card, and stored value cards and have the capability of
accommodating contact smart cards in the future.

Based upon the findings and recommendations of this study, PSTA made the decision to pursue
the acquisition of an upgraded EFP system.

PSTA Procurement Process for the GFI Odyssey:

The following provides a summary of the process used by PSTA in 2000 to procure their new
GFI Odyssey electronic revenue center system.

 PSTA developed a Fare Collection System Committee comprised of all PSTA directors,
managers, lead supervisors, and supporting staff.

 Based on findings from the Tindale-Oliver report and the report from the PSTA staff
member who attended the APTA Fare Collection Workshop, the Committee was
informed that there were only three viable vendors for the desired EFP farebox system:
o GFI Genfare – Elk Grove, Illinois
o AGENT Systems, Inc. – Dallas, Texas
o Cubic Transportation System, Inc. – San Diego, California

Subsequently, Cubic informed PSTA that it would not be pursuing the contract.

 PSTA hosted vendor demonstrations for both GFI Genfare and AGENT.
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 In addition to the vendor demonstrations, PSTA also contacted other transit properties
that were using these two farebox systems.

 On November 16, 2000, the PSTA Fare Collection Committee met and made the
recommendation that it would be in the best interest of PSTA to pursue the purchase and
installation of the GFI Genfare Odyssey fare revenue system. Among the Committee’s
justifications were:

o GFI Genfare was a strong company in the transit industry with which PSTA had a
good working relationship for over 10 years
o The PSTA revenue rooms in both operating divisions could be used with no
modifications. All fuel lane probes, receivers, and vaults could be used.
Modifications would be required with AGENT.
o The Odyssey system did not require more than one cash vault per bus, as did the
AGENT system.
o The Odyssey fareboxes had built-in cassettes for tickets, AGENT did not.
o The Odyssey fareboxes were built as one complete unit, with the separate driver
control unit. The AGENT system was three units, with the Wayfarer ticket
machine mounted separately from the farebox. PSTA felt the close proximity of
the ticket issuer/reader to the farebox was critical for both space concerns and to
provide the bus operator better control of the fare collection process.
o The Odyssey farebox could be operated in by-pass mode during any periods of
malfunction. AGENT could not.
o The base prices for either unit were the same – $10,000 per farebox.
o AGENT did not offer any contactless card technology. Odyssey provides for that
o The GFI Version 7B software offered transactional information and pass/ticket
o GFI offered a trade-in value for existing equipment.

 The PSTA Board of Directors approved the recommendation to purchase the GFI
Genfare Odyssey fare revenue system on January 21, 2001.

 Purchase orders were subsequently issued in a total amount of $1,925,250 to purchase

164 fareboxes and supporting equipment – which is $11,965 per farebox unit.

 The GFI Genfare Odyssey system was installed on all PSTA buses in early June

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PSTA’s Experience With the GFI Genfare Odyssey Electronic Revenue System:

The following a general listing of some of the implementation issues, benefits realized, and
general “lessons learned” by PSTA during their transition to the GFI Genfare Odyssey electronic
revenue system:

 The current mix of pre-paid versus cash fares is 70% pre-paid / 30% cash

 The transition to the Odyssey system was not as traumatic for either PSTA or their
passenger as the addition of the TRiM units for several reasons, including:
o The use of the magnetic strip pre-paid passes had been in place
o The general fare policies remained relatively the same

 All PSTA Operators were required to attend a one hour training session

 PSTA and GFI installed the new fareboxes on the approx. 150 bus fleet over a long
weekend, beginning on Friday afternoon and finished with most by Sunday evening.
Complete installation of the remaining units was completed by Tuesday evening. It took
an average of 20 minutes per bus once the process got organized.

 Following the installation, PSTA developed a post-trip farebox inspection form for the
Operators to provide timely reporting of any concerns and problems

 Some of the changes caused by the introduction of the Odyssey system included:
o The system was programmed not to accept pennies (PSTA’s choice).
o In addition to the “pass-thru” feature for the magnetic cards, the Odyssey farebox
also include a “swipe” option.

 The addition of the “swipe” option did initially slow down the boarding process due to
the passengers’ unfamiliarity with the process and their initial tendency to swipe the card
too fast. With time, the passengers have adopted well and are using the “swipe option”
more than the “pass thru” option. This provides PSTA benefits in both improved
boarding time and less wear-and-tear on the “pass thru” mechanisms.

 The Odyssey farebox incorporated currency validators that provided a mixed blessing for
o The validators have proven to be very effective and have eliminated the
acceptance of foreign currency, “slugs”, and other materials.
o The speed of the dollar bill validators did slow down the boarding process. A
subsequent upgrade in bill validator units did improve the processing time

 PSTA reports that the Odyssey fareboxes have proven to be reliable with few coin or
dollar bill jams

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 The Odyssey farebox has a by-pass mode for coins that permits the operator to accept
fares during times the farebox is malfunctioning. Additionally, when activated all passes
are printed with the date of first use and the date and time that the pass expires. In the
event the pass has been damaged or the farebox fails to read the pass, the operator can
visually inspect the pass to determine if it is still valid.

 The farebox magnetic stripe ticket stock is 7-mil thermal paper for daily tickets and 10-
mil thermal plastic for 7-day and 31-day tickets.

 PSTA discovered that each pass actually has two pre-encoded expiration date. The first –
the absolute date – which is set when the tickets are printed and the second – the
expiration date – which is the date (in days) that the pass is valid for after validation.
PSTA has the pass manufacturer set the absolute date far into the future to keep ticket
stock and pre-sold tickets valid.

 PSTA replenishes the ticket stock in the fareboxes at the garage, usually on a weekly

 PSTA imports the GFI data into their FleetNet data reporting system

 PSTA has set up the Odyssey system to record data hourly. Other “event” definitions are
programmed by GFI.

 PSTA staff pointed out that the use of ridership data to develop passenger loading
profiles was sometimes frustrated by operator errors in properly coding run numbers or
doing so in a timely manner. To avoid these real life issues, PSTA is working with GFI
to program all farebox data to be automatically recorded on a fifteen minute cycle.

 The Odyssey system included GFI Genfare’s newest software package – it’s enhanced
V7 Data System. Features of this new software include:
o Works with Windows 95/NT Operating System
o Is LAN compatible, allowing several workstations to have simultaneous system
o The data files are in standard data base format for special reporting use by most
commercial applications, including adhoc reporting and spreadsheet programs
o Provides for transactional data – permitting several uses and analysis of the data
o Built-in data management operations and report options are available
o The system can be queried using SQL, then importing the data into Excel or

 The V7 Data System is a very user-friendly system, with easy to read screens in a
Windows format. Data is recorded and available for the following information: bus, fare

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vault, run, route, operator, fare type, time of day, all activity related to probing and
emptying fare vaults, all mechanical problems, etc.

 Among the numerous pre-programmed reports available are:

o Farebox Security Report: listing all alarms, use of electronic keys, etc.

o Bypass Mode Report: all occurrences when farebox place in bypass mode

o Exception Summary Report: all instances of incorrect driver-inputted data and


o Cashbox Audit Summary Report: providing detail on probes, alarms, coin and bill
counts, detail on buses not probed or emptied, etc.

o Maintenance Report: by bus, detail related misreads, problems, alerts for required
PM’s, failures, etc.

o Probing Summary Report: history of last probing of all farebox units by bus

o Cashbox Last Seen Report: provides date and time of last probing of each

o Route Sum Report: provides ridership & revenue detail for each route, with detail
by bus and run

o Daily Route Summary Report: ridership, revenue, ticket counts, fare type,
classified & unclassified revenue

o Monthly Route Summary Report: same at monthly level

o Monthly Summary Report: revenue and ridership detail by day

PSTA EFP Process and Data Flow Overview:

Figure A provides a representation of the data and process flow of PSTA’s EFP system.

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Figure A -- PSTA Electronic Fare Payment (EFP) Data / Process Flow

Fare System Information: Revenue System Parameters: Route / Run

I. Data Sets Established Bus #, Farebox #, Fare Sets, Rules Bus
Cash Vault # Operator ID

Fare Unit Data Storage: Operator, Data Collected:

II. On-Board Vehicle Storage Bus, Run, Route, Farebox, Passengers by Type, Time, Fare
Starts EFP Data Flow Cash Vault, and Time Category, and Money Collected

Upload data during probing

III. Data Transfer / Storage process at fuel island or with Data Archiving
portable probes

IV. Data Management GFI V7 Data System


Oper & Perf Reports

V. Operational Reports * Ridership
* Revenue & Audit Reports
* Maintenance
* Security / Exceptions

Ridership Financial Maintenance

VI. Data Analysis
* Passengers * Revenue Collected * Problems, Mis-reads
* Marketing * Pass & Transfer Use * Preventative Maintenance
* Scheduling * Cashbox Audits & Exceptions Alerts
* Operations * Security

VII. Management Reports PSTA Management Reporting

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1. University of South Florida, Center for Urban Transportation Research, Resource for
Advanced Public Transit Systems (RAPTS) Program Web Site, currently found at:

2. “APTS Needs Assessment for Sarasota County Area Transit Final Report”; University of
South Florida, Center for Urban Transportation Research; October 2002.

3. “Multipurpose Fare Media: Developments and Issues”; Transit Cooperative Research

Program; Research Results Digest Number 16; June 1997.

4. “Electronic Fare Payment Media in Transit: Are Smart Cards the Answer?”; Mark
Mistretta; University of South Florida, Center for Urban Transportation Research; August

5. “Final Report: Assessment of Fare Collection Technology and Structure for PSTA”;
Tindale-Oliver and Associates, Inc. with cooperation with Kittelson and Associates, Inc.;
July 2000.

6. PSTA Staff Memorandum Documenting Recommendation of PSTA Fare Collection

Committee; January 11, 2001.

7. Correspondence from Mr. Richard Galli, GFI Genfare Director of Sales, Eastern Region;
January 10, 2003.

8. American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Business Members Web Site,

currently found at:

9. GFI Genfare Inc. Web Site, currently found at:

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