"One card to rule them all": The governmental fix of smart and automated fare collection

Authors: Joseph Gallagher*, University of Oklahoma
Topics: Transportation Geography, Urban Geography, Digital Geographies
Keywords: mobility, platform, policy mobilities, public transit
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Payments for public transit are changing, as agencies adapt to the near-ubiquity of smartphones as well as credit- and debit-cards. These developments have enabled many transit agencies in the U.S. to implement new fare collection technology. Previous forms of fare collection, which relied on paper tickets, tokens and magnetic-striped cards, are giving way to “automated” and “smart” modes of payment via smartcards, NFC-enabled objects and mobile apps. In their roll-out of these technologies, transit agencies typically claim that they will operationalize “seamless” and “new” forms of mobility through their chosen mode of fare collection; however, beyond that their approach to replacing legacy fare systems differs greatly. In a growing number of transit systems, fare payment and route-planning are bundled within third-party mobility-as-a-service platforms; some have partnered directly with TNCs to sell fares alongside discounted rideshare journeys; still others have bundled their legacy media into an agency-issued smartcard. What accounts for the variegated approach to fare collection by transit agencies in the U.S.? Through interviews with key actors in fare collection from the public and private sector, I interrogate this “governmental fix” (Stehlin et. al. 2020) and present an account/typology of how “seamless” mobility has mutated in U.S. regions/transit agencies.

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