Contactless on the streets of Philadelphia

PATCO Speedline 15th-16th & Locust station exit.

Image via Wikipedia

The US city of Philadelphia is already seeing the benefits of contactless, with impressive numbers of deployments for applications such as vending and education.

In the payments world, a number of retail chains, including Wawa, Taco Bell, 7-Eleven and ShopRite, have rolled out contactless terminals in stores across the city.

Schemes that have attracted attention include a multi-city trial by Sheetz convenience stores and Wright Express Corporation, which ran a pilot designed to enable fleet card holders make fuel purchases at Sheetz outlets using their mobile handsets. Drivers – including some based in Philadelphia – could download a fleet card over the air into an NFC-enabled phone.

In 2009, Philadelphia was one of a number of locations chosen for the rollout of the Go-Tag payment scheme, which was based on contactless stickers and involved First Data, Visa, MetaBank, Sheetz, 7-Eleven and Duane Reade. US Bank has also trialled a contactless sticker at points of sale (POS) in the city.

All the major card organizations have made progress with contactless in Philadelphia, including various Visa and MasterCard-backed schemes. Chase has followed their lead and enabled its blink contactless credit card holders to use them to make purchases at outlets in the city and across the US.

Contactless has also made it into the sports arena, with the Philadelphia Eagles deploying the technology since 2004 so fans can use it to make purchases inside their stadium.

Another important growth area for the technology is vending, with around 1,000 Coca-Cola vending machines in the city now accepting MasterCard PayPass.

The parking lot sector has also embraced contactless, with downtown Philadelphia offering reloadable and contactless parking cards, while Philadelphia Parking Authority’s parking facilities at Philadelphia International Airport accept contactless payments for vehicles using the terminal’s  18,600 parking spaces.

There have been mixed fortunes for transportation applications in the city. In March 2005, the Port Authority Transit Corporation (PATCO) inked a deal with Cubic to provide a contactless fare collection system linking rail and parking services for the PATCO high speed line, which connects Philadelphia with New Jersey. The technology was rolled out at 13 rail stations and seven parking lots servicing PATCO’s 14.2 mile rail line. The system is one of the first systems compliant with the Regional Interoperability Standard (RIS) for Electronic Transit Fare Payments, which was developed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

After a series of setbacks dating back several years, Philadelphia-based Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) is starting to make progress with its proposed contactless fare-collection system that it is now scheduled to roll out in the next two to three years. The system is expected to accept closed-loop contactless cards for passengers who don’t have bank cards and will also accept contactless bank cards for fares on its various modes of transport, which include buses, trolley cars, subway trains and overland commuter trains in Philadelphia and surrounding cities.

The technology has also made it into the educational environment. Students at more than 60 high schools have been given contactless cards that enable them to gain admission to school property, register track attendance and pay for their lunch at campus canteens.

Click here for our League Score Table on Philadelphia

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