Monday, February 25, 2013

Getting it Backwards

This is a perfectly reasonable transit payment instrument.
Transit systems shouldn't use NFC. Forget whether or not it's a problem that the subway now has your bank card. Even if everyone had a bank card, which they don't, NFC just isn't fast enough. The London Underground considered using NFC but gave up on the idea, because processing an NFC payment takes too long to get people through the turnstiles fast enough. Japan is a cash-based society, but NFC would likewise be too slow for use on JR's intra-city lines or the various Tokyo subways. Just let people keep using their Metrocards and set up auto refill.

If anything, we should be going in the other direction. Do what Japan did, and turn transit cards into a de facto bank card for unbanked individuals. Let people use them to pay at convenience stores, grocery stores, pharmacies, and so on.


Greg Hao said...

Good point re: using metro card as default banking. You see this a lot in Asia (and starting to creep into Europe).

But then in Asia the postal service of many countries also act as a bank and that's never going to happen here.

John Deppe said...

Wait... why not both? The readers can read both, I believe.

Personally, I'd rather just carry around my bank card rather than my bank card and my transit card. And having to load my transit card to get a milkshake sounds like another nickel-and-dime PITA I don't want to deal with.

Don't get in the way of the space-future because grandma doesn't have it together. Just give grandma a loadable card, and let me use my contactless.

John Deppe said...

I guess what I'm saying is: NFC ain't that slow.

BruceMcF said...

How fast do you reckon it is? The London Underground spec required half a second turnaround time for their turnstiles, and NFC couldn't hit it.

Are we supposed to have a slow lane with a turnstile that accepts people flashing and then waiting to be cleared through, for those who don't want to carry a metro card? How much higher fare should be paid by the people clogging up the system because they can't be bothered to get a metro card that can be read promptly?

Daniel Ahkiam said...

The future is TAP. But that's just the LA-metro partisan in me.

Greg Hao said...

@daniel - ugh. TAP is so shit. At half the stations along the blue line, I can't even find the tap point half the time. I miss the days of the old paper tickets.

Nick Beaudrot said...

NFC is too slow. It's slower than ORCA, and ORCA is slower than the Oyster card or the Pasmo/Suica card. I believe the CharlieCard is roughly the same speed as Oyster/Pasmo.

The Metrocard isn't great but there's no reason to abandon it. If they're going to install contactless readers in the NYC subway, they should start issuing reloadable contactless transit cards, rather than just assume that in the space-future banks will put NFC on all their debit cards and "everyone will have one".

Nick Beaudrot said...

I suppose NYC is in the somewhat unique situation of having more tourists who use transit than most transit systems. But London has Oyster visitor passes, so this is solveable.