Virginia Railway Express (VRE) is at a crossroads at a key time with its current technology. In the near future, VRE will be required to replace its existing Automated Fare Collection (AFC) system. While this may not initially sound so different from what all rail agencies must eventually go through, ensuring that the system can be integrated into its neighboring Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) impending New Electronic Payments Program (NEPP) is a completely different story, and for many reasons.
VRE is a key regional partner of WMATA and, as such, the two work hand-in-hand to ensure the interoperability between the two systems is maximized for the passengers who ride both services. Key to this is NEPP as an eventual replacement of WMATA’s SmarTrip® program. Since the majority of VRE’s ridership is Federal employees who carry PIV (Personal Identity Verification)/CAC (Common Access Card) cards and are making their way into the nation’s capital from Virginia and Maryland, the SmarTrip® program has been a major focus for VRE.
While the NEPP program has several years before it goes live, it presents VRE with a valuable opportunity to review its current AFC system and use the interim to implement various concepts of operations for a future system. As such, VRE has become a willing partner for WMATA as a host for technology proof-of-concepts that will aid both VRE and WMATA in the long term.
VRE is looking into hosting various technology options to pilot at key stations that may include mobile ticketing, Near Field Communication (NFC), or PIV/CAC cards as forms of payment, as well as proof of payment. As an open-gated system, VRE must tackle the problem of fare evasion, so looking to maximize its proof-of-payment capabilities with the latest technology is key.
VRE would like to share with the rail community its thoughts and ideas for proof-of-concepts to utilize the latest payment technologies, as well as discuss its plans on interoperability with WMATA to assist agencies with similar challenges.