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Three companies shortlisted for our smartcards and faregates project

TransLink is working on developing a smartcard for our system, much like the Oyster Card in London. Photo by <a href=>mirka23</a>.

TransLink is working on developing a smartcard for our system, much like the Oyster Card in London. Photo by mirka23.

Our media relations team put out a release today announcing that three companies have been shortlisted for our smartcards and faregates project. They are:

Thales/Octopus International Projects – creator of the ‘Octopus Card’ used on Hong Kong’s transit service and supplier of similar systems in the Netherlands, Norway and Dubai.

Serco/Parkeon – who introduced a complete smart card program for Perth, Australia and have provided related systems to transit operations in Belgium, England and Dubai, as well as to the French national rail system, SNCF.

Cubic/IBM – whose systems include London’s ‘Oyster Card’ and systems for US transit agencies in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Miami-Dade, San Francisco plus Brisbane in Australia.

The smartcard project is targeted to launch in early 2013. I’ll keep you posted on who wins the bid!

Have a look at the full release for more: you can also see a December 2009 project update and the original project announcement.


  • By mark, May 28, 2010 @ 3:41 pm

    Why do we need to look at foreign vendors for this? Toronto has a smartcard:

    But I guess that means that the bureaucrats wouldn’t be able to go on any exotic junkets.

  • By klparrot, May 28, 2010 @ 3:57 pm

    I heart Octopus. I spent only a few days in Hong Kong but that was enough time to get hooked. The best thing about Octopus is that you can use it for so much more than just transit. When I got home, it felt awkward having to deal with cash and credit again.

    I hope that I’ll be able to use our future smartcard for convenience purchases like I can with Octopus. TransLink could push to have it accepted for payment at FareDealer partners, shops in and around SkyTrain stations, and maybe Blenz and Starbucks, to start.

  • By Acco, May 28, 2010 @ 4:40 pm

    I agree with what klparrot has said about Octopus. Was very convenient to use, and being able to use it elsewhere was a nice plus.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, May 28, 2010 @ 5:52 pm

    Mark: Hmm… looking at the Presto card, it appears it has been developed by Accenture, which is a global firm too.

    Nonetheless: it’s important to recognize that card systems like these are very large and complex, and global firms often have the necessary expertise and experience to implement them. As klparrot and Acco indicate, models like the Octopus card have been very successful and useful—it’s not unreasonable to want the same quality and satisfaction here for our card!

  • By Alex2000, May 28, 2010 @ 6:02 pm

    I vote for Octopus!!

    I lived in Hong Kong for a year, and loved it. Plus, we have a lot of Hong Kong ex-pats in Vancouver.

  • By ..., May 28, 2010 @ 9:58 pm

    I used LA’s Tap Card before, but it isn’t as good as
    “Octopus Card”

  • By Acco, May 28, 2010 @ 10:31 pm

    A thought though… while it’s simple to deal with smart cards/single ticket fares along the skytrain lines… and easy to deal with smart cards on buses… how would single ticket fares be handled along bus routes?

  • By peter, May 28, 2010 @ 10:32 pm

    I was using Seattle’s smart card system (orca card) last month — an incredible convenience, even for short stay travelers. You never have to carry change again, and monthly passes holder’s simply auto renew. It would be nice to have a smart card system that we could use on more than one transit system. Too bad life can’t be that simple. Any chance we’ll be able to get on BC Ferries with our transit cards???

  • By voony, May 29, 2010 @ 12:52 am

    I had some thought on faregates here:

  • By Cliff, May 29, 2010 @ 2:31 am

    I don’t think I have much of a preference. One small thing, though. I hear that on London’s system if you have to validate your ticket upon exit.

    What happens if you lose your ticket and can’t afford another? That’s a situation we ought to avoid altogether.

    I hear that with the Octopus card that if you have just 10 cents left, you can still make a full length trip with it. I thought that was kind of neat, but I can acknowledge that with any kind of freebie comes the possibility for abuse.

  • By peter, May 29, 2010 @ 8:49 am

    In seattle, you can register your orca card… then the card auto fills via an automatic visa charge or debit payment. It is also protected from loss and theft — you have to report the theft… then you can replace the card for $5 with all the loaded money intact.

  • By Hector, May 29, 2010 @ 8:50 am

    @Cliff: The Octopus card let’s you make a trip even if you have not enough money up to a limit, which is the most expensive trip possible. That’s just so you don’t get stranded if you don’t have cash on you.

    Whatever the system, it would be nice if it became ubiquitous in Vancouver; as in businesses accepting it for services or purchases, not just public transport.

  • By Devin, May 29, 2010 @ 9:01 am

    I have and use a LA Metro TAP card. If you go that route, don’t launch prematurely like LA has. I’ve had my TAP card for nearly two years and it’s still only useful for half the things they promised. You can only use it for monthly or day passes, you can’t load single trip tickets on it or use it with stored value. If you are using Metro three times in a day (as opposed to 4, where it makes more sense to get a day pass), you have to purchase a ticket (or pay with quarters on a bus) your fare each boarding even if you have a TAP card in your pocket. Also, you can’t buy a day pass on a bus now, only at a Metro rail (or Orange line) stations. The web interface for managing your TAP account is also lousy and confusing although they promise an upgrade to that this summer.

    The biggest drawback of TAP, however, is that you can only use it on certain transit agencies and fares loaded do not work between the agencies. For example a TAP card loaded with a fare product for Metro will not work on Culver City Bus unless also loaded with that sort of fare product.

  • By Jimbo, May 29, 2010 @ 11:07 am

    Another advantage of the Orca card in Seattle is that it allows a person to pay less for a shorter trip. And it does it the smarter way, it bills the price to the end of the train line in advance so people can’t over-extend their ride with a ticket that isn’t valid for that length of trip, then refunds the difference if you get off at a station before the end of the line.
    “The amount deducted when you board will be the fare from the point you boarded to the end of the train line. When you exit the train and tap at the card reader, the difference in fare for the ride you completed will be restored to your card.”

  • By Adrian, May 29, 2010 @ 12:37 pm

    Just to throw in some more information with the Octopus Card, the company itself also sells a few consumer goods with the smart card chip enabled inside, such as watches, collectibles, and has also partnered with banks to have them built into VISA cards and ATM cards.

    Most smartcard systems around the world have really only focused on developing an easier fare payment system for primarily the transit system. I think we should really take it a step further, like with Hong Kong. Not only should this card be accepted on different transportation modes, TransLink and the winning company should partner with convenience stores and perhaps coffee shops so that a wide variety of stores accept the smartcard as a form of payment. In Hong Kong, their card is accepted at stores like 7-Eleven and Circle K, making purchases so easy and quick. One can also fill up their Octopus Card at these stores and not just do it at the Add-Value Machines at MTR stations.

    Expanding Cliff’s question and Hector’s response, the Octopus Card only allows you to make “go negative” ONCE. This can be on the MTR system, on buses, or on purchases at stores. After that, if you “go negative,” you must charge up your card before going on. On the MTR system, if you tap out and you are negative, there are add-value machines inside the fare paid zones and you can always ask for assistance with the customer service.

  • By Acco, May 29, 2010 @ 4:10 pm

    And regarding the octopus card negative balance provision: on “loaned” cards… this isn’t really abuseable… As this negative balance is covered using the HKD 50 deposit when you receive your card at first… Up to a maximum of HKD -35 on a single trip.

  • By Chris, May 29, 2010 @ 5:23 pm

    I’m looking forward to smart cards – it will be convenient to load money onto a single card and not have to worry about bus tickets.

    I just wish they would give up on the barrier idea. The province is catering to people who don’t understand basic math and who’s perception of fare evasion is much higher then reality. The economics of it are terrible and will only suck money out of the transit system.

    Why aren’t we looking at the London DLR, which uses Oyster cards and the same Bombardier technology as SkyTrain with no faregates. Just terminals where you swipe in and out.

  • By Henry, May 29, 2010 @ 10:31 pm

    Very excited about smart cards. I remember being at a transit workshop years ago and nobody wanted to talk about smart cards at that time.

    My experience with Hong Kong’s Octopus has been extremely positive. I like having a cash card instead of carrying coins. Especially in Hong Kong since coins range from 10 cents to 10 dollars. I can buy things at 7-11, Circle K, McDonald’s, KFC, and other chain-store outlets. I can even refill at those places.

    I also like that my Octopus has no identifiable information about me. I personally don’t like the idea of linking the card to my credit card or bank account. I’d rather load up my card at a terminal with cash.

    I think TransLink should really work with all parking companies and municipalities to get the smart card to work for parking. I think it’s safe to say that everyone in Metro Vancouver has to pay for parking and/or transit at some point in time. That will make the smart card ubiquitous for everybody (as it is in Hong Kong). I have seen parking meters in Hong Kong that also use the Octopus card. It’s a great card and a great system. I think TransLink really has to push hard to create partnerships with parking, private companies, municipal governments to make this card so common that a person may just consider hopping on the bus/train just because they have a smart card handy.

    The other neat thing about the Octopus in Hong Kong is that you can discounts for riding the same bus back on your way back. Or if you ride the MTR trains 10 times, you can qualify for a gift. When I was there, they had a Pokemon promotion where you could collect Pokemon toy. A new toy every week. It worked almost the same way as a Happy Meal.

    Oh. And don’t forget to issue commemorative cards and collectible cards from time to time. Us transit nuts love that kind of stuff. Bring on the smart card.

  • By David, May 30, 2010 @ 2:03 am

    I vote for the Octopus card all the way. Whenever I’m in Hong Kong, I never leave home without it. It’s so common in Hong Kong that you’ll be hard pressed to find a person without one. As other users have said, Translink should expand the smart card so people can use it any many other places as well.

    I think Translink should implement some of sort discount over cash fare to encourage people to use smart cards. This is the case in Hong Kong, where it is cheaper to ride the MTR using the Octopus compared to regular cash fare.

  • By Steve, May 30, 2010 @ 5:20 pm

    The Oyster Card implementation wasn’t without its problems and I am certainly interested in seeing how Translink will address these here. Some of the issues I have experienced with Oyster: overcharging, incorrect record of journey, gates not reading my card, technical faults when the whole system goes down, also many customers had privacy or security concerns, difficulties for wheelchair, pushchair and those with large luggage, and the fact that gates are a minor deterrent for fare dodgers with some customers who just jump over the gates!

    A good commercial opportunity for companies, wait for a ton of card holders to come on to the market, I use my Spider-Man one all the time and Burberry UK have some posh ones too!

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, June 1, 2010 @ 5:17 pm

    Acco: About single ticket fares on buses. My only experience is with London’s Oyster card, and the way it worked was that you could carry a cash balance on the Oyster card that could buy you single tickets. So you’d just tap the Oyster card in on the bus and it would deduct from the cash balance. The single ticket price for the Oyster card was also cheaper than the cash fare price, so you had an incentive to buy the smartcard too.

    Does that maybe sort of answer your question? I guess maybe all I’m saying is it’s possible!

  • By George, June 2, 2010 @ 2:44 am

    I’m with the Octopus supporters on this one, after spending last week in Hong Kong.

  • By ;-), June 5, 2010 @ 7:29 am

    OK, I’m in HKG right now and got myself an Octopus card…. but I can’t understand why people like it so much. Basically it’s a prepaid debit card. I prefer the monthly passes we have right now. Perhaps the biggest convenience is not having to carry and count change all the time.

    BTW…. if people want quick electronic commerce, doesn’t Esso and Royal Bank already offer automatic charges to credit cards right now with their “Speedpass” product? I think it’s a RFID keyfob design that’s been in use for several years.

  • By Ric, June 10, 2010 @ 11:40 am

    I vote for the Octopus card at the way. Whenever I go to Hong Kong, I can’t leave home without it. It is the easiest way to get around on public transit in Hong Kong.

    I often go to Hong Kong for vacation and once I come back and use public transit here in Vancouver say to myself I wish I could have used my octopus card.

    I think that if Translink introduces the smart card system they should be expand they program so that it can be used for other things such as parking and purchases at convenience stores.

    However, I think that if the smart card system does come into place, I think that post-secondary students should still be offered a Upass, so that they will continue to use public transportation to get to school.

  • By ;-), June 10, 2010 @ 12:12 pm

    Perhaps the main issue I have is the deposit. Collecting the deposit when I’m finished my 4 day HKG trip. Also you lose your deposit and the remaining value on your card if the card is lost.

    It’s even worse when it’s setup to auto debit your bank account.

  • By Alex, August 20, 2010 @ 4:13 pm

    Octopus Card the best )

  • By Red frog, October 15, 2010 @ 2:17 pm

    Lots of towns have had transit smart cards for quite a while (there are many types of smart cards so I like to emphasize the “transit” bit). Actually, for all of you youngsters the cell phone is the way to go (the transit chip can be installed in the phone).
    Transit smart cards are so common place that even Transit systems in small French towns (150 000 people)use them.
    I have never been able to find an internet page with the full fare system of the Octopus so I can’t comment. I do know that European and Japanese cards give big discounts if you get a commuter pass for 6 months (Japan) or 1 year (Europe) YOU pay by the month (automatic withdrawal).
    Even their pay-as-you-go is cheap as the smart card always deduct less–for any given trip– than if one had been paying cash and cards lock the daily pay-as-you-go amount to no more than the price of a 1 day card, no matter how many trips are taken.
    I fear that TransLink see the card as a profit making venture and will soak us users. Seattle for example charge more for their transit than Portland (no transit card there yet). Montreal(with a transit smart card) and Toronto (without) charge less than Vancouver and yet have better transit.
    By the way many towns still have fare zones even with a transit smart card (Paris and London being the best examples)

    To end my ramblings.. in 2007 I saw for the first time a Japanese guy waving his cell phone-equiped with a transit chip– at a small device in a 7-11 to pay for his groceries..

Other Links to this Post

  1. The Buzzer blog » Smartcard and faregates project moves another step forward — July 9, 2010 @ 4:41 pm

  2. The Buzzer blog » Contest: name our future electronic fare card! — October 12, 2010 @ 8:02 am

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