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 equipment provided "in-kind" or at a reduced cost was often provided with minimal technical support and this caused a number of complications on the project. Therefore, at the start of the project, during the planning phases, it is important to establish a clear understanding among all partners on the level of technical support to be provided by suppliers and integrators who also provide equipment.
There are tradeoffs associated with the level of technical support provided by suppliers when accepting "in-kind" or equipment at a reduced cost from a supplier(s) in a demonstration project. The implementation team made arrangements with several vendors to supply equipment at a reduced price (or in some cases at no cost) in consideration for the relatively high profile that this FOT would provide. While the vendors did agree to offer lower cost equipment, some offered only limited quantities. In addition, some software customization and systems integration support services that would typically be offered by an equipment vendor became the responsibility of the overall systems integrator. The magnitude of these additional systems integration responsibilities became increasingly apparent over the course of the implementation period, and contributed to the implementation taking longer than originally anticipated.
The implementing agencies indicated that this approach was based on a risk management decision that took into account the odds for success and the cost estimates received for integration with existing systems. They estimated that half of the federal funding provided for the project might have been expended for this part of the overall integration effort if this approach had not been adopted. The implementation team identified these equipment arrangements with vendors as a viable implementation solution, given the available funding, once it was clear that initial attempts at a traditional procurement approach had proven unacceptable from a risk management perspective. The revised procurement approach that was utilized served to limit the need to use capital project funding for equipment purchases. The limited scale of the test configuration also helped preserve sufficient funding to last throughout the duration of the FOT.
This ORANGES experience suggests the following guidance for similar future initiatives:
- Only use "in kind" or reduced price contributions from suppliers with an advance understanding on any limitations in the supply by that vendor of necessary ancillary equipment and services associated with that product.
- Ensure that there are planned mechanisms to provide all necessary ancillary equipment and services that will not be provided as part of such a vendor arrangement.
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. The system development challenges associated with this lesson had no significant effect on customer satisfaction.
The overall project was completed behind schedule. The system development challenges associated with this lesson introduced significant schedule delays, while the project team found ways to compensate for limitations in what the vendors would contribute that had not been anticipated.
The participating cardholders generally expressed a positive opinion about the potential technology, with concerns focusing primarily on the limited scale of deployment. The system development challenges associated with this lesson had no significant effect on the system performance as experienced by the cardholders.
The ORANGES experience highlighted some issues and problems associated with equipment that is provided "in-kind" or at a reduced cost, as the type of equipment often needs higher levels of technical support. This experience identifies strategies gaining an understanding of the level of technical support needed by suppliers and integrators involved in the project. While this learning was derived from a project involving a smart card payment system, this guidance applies to all ITS projects requiring some level of systems integration and technical support.