Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Transit Tuesday: The Name Game

SmartCards*Please see below for a correction

Transit Tuesday is a weekly feature or profile on transit.

In recent years, many transit agencies in the United States and abroad have converted to contactless RFID cards. And many have used this opportunity to rebrand their fare system, perhaps even the transit system as a whole.

Let's take a look at what rail operators have named their RFID cards:
  • Atlanta - MARTA - "Breeze Card"
  • Boston - T - "CharlieCard"
  • Chicago - L - "Chicago Card"
  • Miami - Metro - "EASY Card"
  • New York - PATH - "SmartLink"
  • Philadelphia - PATCO - "Freedom Card"
  • San Diego - Coaster, Trolley, Sprinter - "Compass Card"
  • San Francisco - BART, Caltrain, Muni - "TransLink"
  • Seattle - Link, Sounder - "ORCA Card"
  • Washington - Metro - "SmarTrip"
Most of these smart cards are used region-wide. For instance, in the Atlanta area, the Breeze Card can be used on MARTA rail and bus, C-Tran , Cobb Community Transit, Gwinnett County Transit, and XpressGA buses. Washington's SmarTrip can be used on all transit systems in the region, except for MARC and VRE, the commuter rail operators.

Names often reflect the history of the region or the system. Boston's CharlieCard, for instance, is a reference to the protest song "Charlie on the MTA", which was written in 1948 to oppose fare increases. The Charm Card references to Baltimore's nickname, Charm City. Seattle's ORCA is actually an acronym, short for One Regional Card for All.
Some are still in the roll out phases and will eventually be accepted in more places. Other places are planning to have the technology soon, including Baltimore's "Charm Card," expected later this year.

Last week's Transit Tuesday included an error, for which I apologize.

In my analysis of fares, I used the longest-distance trip on BART to calculate the highest fare, because BART does not list the highest fare on their website. The trip I used for the calculation was between Millbrae and Pittsburg/Bay Point. That trip, which passes through San Francisco Airport station costs $7.05. However, a trip from San Francisco Airport to Pittburg/Bay Point costs $10.90. This is due to a surcharge added to trips to/from SFO Airport Station. Again, I apologize for the bad data. Thanks to DavidJ for the tip.

Again, I apologize for the bad data. I do my best to provide accurate and informative data, and will continue to do so. If you see something you think is an error, please notify me.


Ed said...

I always loved some of the foreign names - London has the Oyster and Hong Kong has the Octopus card.

Rob Pitingolo said...

I don't think you have to be so apologetic about last week's analysis. As I’ve learned myself, trying to compare fares across systems can be a notoriously difficult task.