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Released: 10/4/2012 

PATCO to Conclude Open Payment, Contactless Card Pilot Program

One-Year Pilot Ends on October 20

The Port Authority Transit Corporation (PATCO) announced the end of a year-long contactless credit/debit card pilot program.  As of Oct. 20, PATCO no longer will accept bank-issued contactless debit and credit cards at station fare gates.

Passengers who value the convenience of waving a contactless credit or debit card at a PATCO fare gate may continue to pay with the FREEDOM contactless stored-value card.  PATCO FREEDOM cards still can be recharged with any Visa®, MasterCard® or American Express® credit or debit card.

“The pilot was an unqualified success,” said PATCO General Manager John Rink.  “We planned from the outset that it would last for just one year, and we hoped it would demonstrate that our automated fare collection system is compatible with the latest wave-and-pay technology.   It did, but for now, the transaction costs for bank-issued contactless cards are too high to justify adopting the program permanently.”

Given current rates of contactless bank card usage at PATCO stations, processing costs would exceed fares by more than 150 percent.  During the pilot, PATCO averaged about 3,000 contactless bank card transactions per month.

“Obviously, that’s not financially sustainable,” Rink said. “But we project that as larger regional transit authorities in Pennsylvania and New Jersey begin accepting contactless bank cards, economies of scale will drive down transaction costs. When that happens, we’ll revisit enabling our system to accept contactless bank cards.”

PATCO conducted the open-payment pilot program in conjunction with Cubic Transportation Systems of San Diego, California.  As part of the pilot, Cubic upgraded the PATCO automated fare collection system to accept bank-issued, radio-enabled, credit and debit cards for contactless payments.  Cubic also covered transaction, marketing and promotion costs.

Cubic will leave $800,000 in upgrades to PATCO’s automatic fare collection system in place after the pilot concludes.

The pilot program began last year with the introduction of the PATCO-branded Visa® Wave and Pay stored-value card.  The rechargeable card could be used to pay rail fares and parking fees on the high-speed line or to purchase goods at any store that accepted Visa® debit or credit cards. 

Customers used the Visa® Wave and Pay debit card for about 37,000 PATCO rail-fare and parking transactions and about 6,500 non-PATCO retail transactions throughout the program. 

When the pilot ends, PATCO Visa® Wave and Pay cards no longer will be accepted for contactless payment of fares, but remaining money stored on the card still may be used to purchase goods and services anywhere Visa® is accepted.

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The Delaware River Port Authority is a regional transportation agency that connects millions of people and businesses in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  The DRPA owns and operates the PATCO commuter rail line and the Benjamin Franklin, Walt Whitman, Commodore Barry and Betsy Ross toll bridges.  The DRPA also owns the RiverLink Ferry.


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