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Boston’s Transit System To Replace Its CharlieCard With Contactless Fare Payments

Less than a month after winning the contract to bring contactless fare payments to New York City’s vast subway and bus system, Cubic Transportation Systems won a $575 million contract from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to replace the CharlieCard, a fixture in Boston, with a modernized fare system centered on contactless payments.

The 10-year contract has two five-year extension provisions. San Diego-based Cubic’s partner for the MBTA project is John Laing Group plc, a London-based infrastructure-management and investment firm with a hand in transportation and building projects around the world, including the new rail line connecting Denver’s downtown and airport.

The new fare system will be able to accept contactless mobile payments from smart phones equipped with near-field communication technology, contactless general-purpose bank cards, and agency-issued fare media. Mobile wallets such as Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay will work on the system, a Cubic spokesperson tells Digital Transactions News.

“This isn’t just the next generation of fare collection, but an entirely new way that our customers will interact with the MBTA,” said Luis Manuel Ramirez, general manager of the MBTA, in a news release. “The new system will be compatible with all modes and will provide more options for paying fares, and will have more fare media available for use.”

An image of a proposed ticketing kiosk for use in the Boston transit system (Image credit: Cubic)

Locally known as “the T,” the MBTA is the nation’s fifth-largest public-transportation system, operating subways, commuter-rail lines, and 1,000-plus buses in Boston and its suburbs. Every fare gate will be able to accept mobile payments, and each door on buses will have fare boxes, according to the Boston Herald.

Smart-phone payments are expected to go live in 2020. The fare system will include a mobile app in addition to an online site for customers to manage their transit accounts.

Cubic said it will be responsible for the new system’s design and implementation, as well as operational and maintenance services including platform and back-office hosting; card fulfillment; financial services that include clearing and settlement, and a retail merchant network with ticketing machines. John Laing will be responsible for project financing and administration.

Cubic is subcontracting the clearing and settlement functions and has selected First Data Corp. as its merchant acquirer, the spokesperson says.

Instead of an up-front payment to the Cubic-Laing consortium, the MBTA will pay the vendors monthly, and they can be penalized for failure to keep the fare system running properly, according to the Herald.

The New York City area’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Oct. 25 awarded a $539.5 million contract to Cubic Transportation Systems to install an NFC-based fare-payment system across all MTA transit and commuter-rail systems. Cubic also operates fare systems in London, Chicago, and other cities.

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