NFC phones used to check LA Metro passengers’ tickets

Ticket inspectors working for the public transport operators in Los Angeles and Minneapolis-St Paul are now using NFC phones to read passengers’ contactless transport tickets and check they have paid their fare.

Metro Transit bus
METRO: Staff carry NFC phones to read passenger tickets and identify fare dodgers

Transport officials in two US cities are using NFC technology to check passengers have paid their fares, Mass Transit magazine reports.

The Los Angeles Metro and the Twin Cities Metro Transit in Minneapolis-St Paul were already using handheld devices to check tickets. But Jane Matsumoto, Metro’s deputy executive officer, and Metro Transit’s senior manager of revenue operations, Tom Randle, said the new technology has made their jobs easier:

“This is our second generation handheld validation device,” Matsumoto says. “The original one was bulkier.

“It was cumbersome for our fare inspectors and uniformed law enforcement officers to carry this around. In fact our uniformed officers could not carry it because of its bulk.”

“It kind of looked like the thing stores use when they do inventory and they point this gun at a bar code,” says Bob Gibbons, Metro Transit’s director of customer services.

Both agencies were looking for something smaller and more reliable for their employees to use.

“It is just a far more convenient way to travel around the system with a cell phone device,” Matsumoto says.

“They are compact and lightweight and easy to carry. They hold a charge for the working day that the officers need to use them, so they are always available. And they are relatively speedy at reading a card, so they’ve really done well for us,” says Randle.

“One of the biggest concerns with our uniformed officers is that they just simply do not have real estate on their belt buckles to get anything else on there,” Matsumoto says.

“The older ones were very large. They were probably about eight inches by about four inches and they were about an inch and a half thick so they were just too cumbersome.

“It required you to carry it in your hand. Well, if you are a fare inspector that is part of your job, but if you are a law enforcement officer, your hands have to be free. You can’t have something in your hand.

“Now with the NFC technology with the cell phone they are able to carry it in their pockets.”

Currently Los Angeles Metro has 100 NFC phones — believed to be Nokia 6212s — in use and is in the process of acquiring more than six times that amount. Metro Transit has two dozen in use at any time with about six more for spares.

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