Electronic Fare Payment (EFP) systems, also known as Automatic Fare Collection (AFC) systems use electronic communication, data processing, and data storage techniques to automate manual fare collection processes. The purpose of this technology is to make fare payment more convenient for travelers and revenue collection less costly for transit providers. Electronic fare media in the form of magnetic stripe cards or smart cards are capable of storing information in a read and/or write format.
EFP systems benefit both transit agencies and customers. For transit agencies, EFP systems reduce labor-intensive cash handling costs and risk of theft, improve reliability and maintainability of fare boxes, and permit sophisticated fare pricing, based on distance traveled and time of day. In addition, EFP systems permit the automation of accounting and financial settlement processes and create multimodal and multi-provider transportation networks that are seamless to the rider, but operationally and organizationally sound for the multiple providers. For customers, transit becomes easier to use because exact change is not necessary and only a single fare card is needed to use the system.
Fare collection is carried out both by common paper tickets or by electronic fare documents based on contactless chip cards. Contactless cards are mainly used as electronic purses or time coupons. Time coupon extending and electronic purse recharging can be done either on board or at vending machines.
The fare collection system is further connected to the information systems in vehicles, at stations or at dispatch centers. Passengers are thus informed about actual transport possibilities and dispatchers can monitor the current transport situation.
All devices and workplaces relevant to the fare collection system are connected to a central database. Two-way transmission of operational data is automatic. Data transfer from vehicles is carried out via W-LAN, generally during presence in depots. Data transfer from other devices and locations is realized via LAN or GPRS. Data transfer is done in the same way in the opposite direction. Vehicles are located by GPS with on-line GPRS data transmission to the centre.
Electronic Fare Payment systems can be divided into two categories of technologies: the fareboxes and machines that are used to collect/dispense fare media and the media itself.