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 illustrated that it is necessary to include significant planning and development time in the overall project schedule when a regional system is being implemented. Given the multiplicity of agencies involved, this extra time is needed to accommodate identification of and accommodation for the various compatibility issues across existing legacy system equipment.
The ORANGES project experience provides the following guidance.
- Plan on development time to identify and resolve system integration issues with existing legacy equipment, which include:
- Integration with existing field equipment such as transit fareboxes, toll road equipment (e.g., plaza lane equipment, in-vehicle transponders) and parking equipment (e.g., garage entry/exit, parking meters, pay-by-space, pay-and-display);
- Integration with agency point of sale locations, to support smart card issuance and revaluing;
- Integration with existing revenue management systems at each agency;
- Integration with the third party clearinghouse system that will settle prepaid funds to each agency based on the card payment and revaluing transactions completed at each agency; and
- Development and strict adherence to Interface Control Documentation (ICD's), so development work among vendors is properly directed.
Previous regional smart card systems in the US have been primarily limited to supporting multiple transit agencies in a region (e.g., San Francisco TransLink), or to supporting the combination of transit and transit-related parking (e.g., Washington (WMATA) SmarTrip®). The ORANGES FOT was successful in demonstrating that it is technically feasible to extend the underlying operational concept to encompass transit, tolls and parking. In addition, the toll usage successfully demonstrated the feasibility of infrared transponders that accept smart cards.
- Do not to underestimate the complexity of integration and interoperability issues.
The implementation team required considerably longer than originally planned to complete the system design and implementation. Most of the systems integration challenges centered around (1) determining the correct type of smart card and compatible readers, and (2) retrofitting the various types of existing field equipment (i.e., smart card readers in all the agency equipment needed to support the communications protocol used by the selected smart card). It is important to note that some equipment was provided "in-kind" by vendors in exchange for visibility in a high profile project. In addition to cost considerations, another reason for the use of “in-kind” vendor equipment was in some cases the need to use equipment from a foreign source when there was insufficient time to pursue a Buy America waiver. Quantities of equipment, customization and integration support providing by these vendors was typically limited. Agencies should document the system requirements and the vendor roles in addressing these requirements at the time of vendor selection. This will help identify any system requirements that will not be met by the vendors.
- Ensure that the integrator develops detailed system testing checks for the proper handling of error conditions and other operational scenarios.
Examining the clearinghouse transaction activity reports revealed an important error in how the overall system handled one case where a transaction amount exceeded the stored value balance (e.g., a $3 transaction when the balance was $1). Apparently, when attempting to store a negative value, a “roll under” condition with a large positive number (approaching $43 million) was recorded by the card as the balance rather than the negative. Business rules indicated that negative balances were not allowed, but the technology needed to ensure that enforcement of this rule did not cause undesired effects.
The smart card or card reader needs to include software logic to prevent such a transaction from being completed. Barring that, the clearinghouse software should include logic to detect/report such occurrences to the agencies. None of this preventative or detection logic was in place in the FOT system. To detect this or a similar type of problem in future projects of this type, the system response to error conditions should be explicitly addressed through the testing and ongoing monitoring of the clearinghouse transaction activity reports. It should be recognized that developing a comprehensive testing program to capture every conceivable error condition could be a very expensive proposition for the project partners. It should also be noted that there is still a chance of missing an error condition as testing cannot reasonably expect to replicate every conceivable condition that will be experienced in the operational environment.
The ORANGES experience also provides this additional guidance.
- Identify a smart card that will pose the least difficulties in integrating a compatible smart card reader with each partner's legacy equipment.
- Secure technical support for integration, from the smart card reader vendor and the legacy equipment vendors.
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 acceptance of a regional payment method. Measures to achieve effective systems integration contribute to this goal by ensuring that the system functions in a planned and predictable manner for its users.
The overall project was completed behind schedule. The resolution of systems integration issues contributed significantly to these delays.
The participating cardholders generally expressed a positive opinion about the technology, with concerns focusing primarily on the limited scale of deployment. The fact that the system was successfully integrated to allow payment across three distinct legacy systems contributed to this result, since this allowed cardholders to use the same card for multimodal trips.
The examples and lesson elements above illustrate the need to include significant planning and development time in the overall project schedule, when a regional system is being implemented. This extra time is needed to identify and accommodate various compatibility issues when implementing the system across existing legacy system equipment. Additionally, this guidance focused on strategies to lessen the impact of compatibility issues, deal with error conditions, and to secure adequate technical support. While this experience suggests strategies for handling integration and compatibility issues of smart card technology, the same vast majority of the guidance could be applied to other ITS technologies and systems.