Orlando Regional Alliance for Next Generation Electronic Payment Systems (ORANGES) Evaluation Final Report: Electronic Payment Systems Field Operational Test
In 2000, the US DOT awarded a Field Operational Test (FOT) grant to a group of public sector agencies located in the Orlando region. The project was titled Orlando Regional Alliance for Next Generation Electronic Payment Systems, or ORANGES. The US DOT was interested in identifying and evaluating issues associated with establishing partnerships between public transportation service providers and other transportation agencies, in developing and using multiple-application electronic payment systems that included smart card technology. The FOT requirements were specifically designed to test a payment system that could support a variety of payment applications, at a minimum including transit fare collection, parking payment and electronic toll collection.
As part of the national ITS program, the USDOT requires that each FOT have an independent evaluator. The evaluation is separately funded and has independent goals, objectives, schedules and deliverables. The USDOT evaluations also provide useful feedback to the local FOT participants, as well as other interested transportation stakeholders.
The FOT demonstrated the technical feasibility of implementing a regional smart card with a centralized clearinghouse for multimodal regional transportation payments, where a card issued by any participating agency could be used for payments with (and revalued at) smart card accepting equipment operated by any of the partner agencies.
The ORANGES experience showed that developing a recruitment plan in the project planning phase would help to better ensure that the smart cards are actively used. This experience also showed that recruitment plans should detail the processes for cardholder recruitment, screening, and training.
The ORANGES project experience provides the following guidance about cardholder recruitment, and the limited implementation plan.
- Put extra effort in initial cardholder recruitment, screening and education. The limited number of cards being issued made it essential that cardholders be properly screened as part of the recruitment process. The usage patterns of potential recruits were screened by agency customer service representatives and via the project website, to attempt to recruit cardholders who used the actual routes and locations that would be equipped to accept the cards. Flyers were also handed out at the specific toll plaza and parking garages to be equipped. LYNX recruiting was completed on-board buses and at bus stops by a professional recruiting firm.
Despite these efforts, some of the initially recruited cardholders only used their cards for a brief time, while others used them only sporadically. It is possible that some adjustments to the recruitment approach could have helped in identifying cardholders more likely to use the card. While it is difficult to speculate on specific adjustments to the approach that could have helped, insight into this issue could have been gained through follow-up interviews with cardholders.
- It also seems that agency efforts to recruit additional cardholders later in the trial were limited. Although a total of 2100 cards were available – and the number of cards in active use remained below 160 throughout the demonstration period – many of the available cards were never issued. The initial recruitment drive led to about 750 cards being issued by mid-September 2003. Recruitment efforts were renewed beginning in November 2003, subsequent to the number of active cards dropping below 100. This led to a gradual and steady issuance of additional cards over the remainder of the trial, culminating in an overall cumulative total of 1250 cards issued by late June 2004 (after which no further cards were issued because the FOT had an August 2004 scheduled completion date).
- Implement the FOT test configuration on as wide a scale as possible to make the smart card as useful and attractive as possible to users. The limited scale of the FOT test configuration and limited staff training made the card less useful and attractive. The limited number of card acceptance locations (two transit routes, five lanes at one toll plaza and three parking garages) seems to have been a disincentive toward extensive and continuous use. Comments from the after discussion groups indicated that factors making card use less attractive included (1) the limited number of revaluing locations (ten); (2) the fact that the card could not be used on all bus routes and toll plazas; and (3) limited agency staff awareness/training about accepting the card.
- In particular, cardholders indicated that although they were users of the equipped routes and locations, they might have used the card more if a broader range of routes and locations had been equipped to accept the card. These cardholders also mentioned staff training issues (e.g., some LYNX bus operators were reportedly not familiar with the fact that the smart card was an accepted fare medium or how it was used with the validator). Comments from the planning and management after discussion group indicated that the agencies recognized that a more comprehensive scale for the FOT test configuration and more extensive training would likely have improved the results. Training plans should take into account the on-going need to train new staff due to personnel changes during the course of the FOT (e.g. bus operators assigned to a route may change after the periodic operator sign-up).
- Try a range of different types of other incentive programs to encourage active membership. The cardholder incentives established by the agencies apparently influenced usage patterns during the demonstration. OOCEA (tolls) customers received a smart card with $5 preloaded, and were to receive a $20 check at the end of the 12-month trial if they remained an active user throughout the FOT period. However, this incentive was discontinued after issuance of the initial 300 cards by OOCEA, as it was determined that many customers discontinued use of the smart card once the initial $5 had been used. Transit and parking customers received a discount for each ORANGES transaction processed throughout the demonstration (15% for LYNX fares and 50% for parking fees). Parking was the most frequent type of ORANGES transaction, which raises the possibility that there might have been fewer ORANGES parking transactions if the incentive had not been as generous.
- Other types of incentives identified as being of interest (i.e., in the after cardholders discussion group) included: (1) incentives tied to higher revaluing amounts or card balances; (2) incentives tied to frequency of card use; (3) a loyalty program where points could accumulate for discounts with retailers or community activities; and (4) occasional random free payments when using the card.
The ORANGES experience also provides this additional guidance.
- Provide discounts with card transactions to give customers an incentive to alter their habits and try using the card.
- Avoid an "initial transactions free" type of incentives approach; at least on its own, since this strategy can lead to discontinued use after the free period has ended.
Developing a regional smart card payment system is related to the ITS Goal of improving customer satisfaction, through making payments for multimodal travel easier by establishing a regional payment method. Incentives schemes are popular with cardholders and can enhance customer satisfaction with the program, or at least entice additional customers to try the card and then experience its other benefits.
The participating cardholders generally expressed a positive opinion about the potential technology, with concerns focusing primarily on the limited scale of deployment. It is expected that the use of incentives did contribute to this result by increasing the willingness of cardholders to get into the habit of using the card despite any initial unfamiliarity with the technology.
The guidance that resulted from the ORANGES experience focused on providing strategies for effectively recruiting system users, making the smart card payment system as attractive and useful, and encouraging users to actively use the system. While this guidance was oriented towards a smart-card payment system, the learning from this experience could be applied to other ITS technologies and systems that require users' voluntary participation.