JIS News

The Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) has expressed confidence in its Electronic Ticketing Machine (ETM), which incorporates the smart card system, and is used on its fleet of buses.
Brian Tulloch, Systems Engineer at the government-owned bus company, informs JIS News that the ETM utilises technology that is not easily susceptible to outside interference. “From our general perspective, I would say the system is fool proof,” Mr. Tulloch says, pointing out that certain functions of the system are hard coded into the machines, therefore making it that more difficult for unscrupulous individuals to tamper with the machine.
He says that in order for someone to manipulate the ETM, “it would take some doing or some extensive knowledge of the devices and how they work for you to go in and tamper with it”. The ETM functions as the JUTC’s method of supporting cash and smart card payment from its passengers. There is a plate on the machine itself, known as a contact-set device, on which the smart card is placed. The machine extracts information from the card, deducts the fare (with a 10 per cent discount), and dispenses a ticket. The ticket shows the passenger the remaining balance on the card, where on the route they boarded the bus, and their intended destination. The tickets that are dispensed by the machine to passengers paying with cash have similar information, with the exception of the displayed balance on a smart card.
Mr. Tulloch points out that at the JUTC, the ETMs undergo various checks and balances in-house, with respect to the personnel who have authorised access to the machines.
“There are various reporting aspects to it, so we have the revenue aspect of it that is restricted to the revenue controller and her staff that we will be able to pull all the information in terms of revenue, ridership, and sales,” he explains.
The ETMs are also accessible to the service-planning department, which generates rosters and routes for the bus drivers and customer service agents (conductor/conductress). He points out that the department uses the ridership count that is tabulated by the machine, in determining which bus routes have heavier passenger loads and in turn, adjust the availability of buses on the route.
Also given access to the ETMs are the traffic department as well as the accounting offices of the company bus depots.
“The revenue controller works and gets information fed to her from various accounting offices at the various locations, and they have access to the system and look at the data, can analyse and crunch the numbers and come up with various reports that are necessary, which are fed back to management for them to make decisions,” Mr. Tulloch notes.
“The system is basically there to collect fares and operate in terms of the point of contact between the customer service agent and the passenger and then on the backend, on our side, we have the software in place and reporting tools that will extract management data from it,” he adds.
Electronic ticketing machines were purchased by the JUTC from Wayfarer Transit System in the United Kingdom in 1998 when the bus company began operations in Jamaica. The JUTC has a maintenance contract with Wayfarer, and a service centre is based at the Twickenham Park location in St. Catherine that provides maintenance facilities for the machines, the point of sale machines that sell smart cards, as well as the depot readers that extract information from the ETMs.
Mr. Tulloch tells JIS News that the machines are maintained twice a year, at which time they undergo general servicing of the equipment.
“They also provide any additional maintenance that we might require outside of the contract. For example, anything that is caused by water damage or if we want to go through a special cleaning or any facility like that, they also provide that support,” he explains.
Mr. Tulloch says that if there is a problem with an ETM on a bus, a mobile crew can take a replacement, or the bus can be taken back to the depot for repairs to be carried out.
As for problems with the smart cards, because they are electronic devices, Mr. Tulloch says they can malfunction.
“There can be mishandling of the actual cards themselves.bending, damage in that kind of way, then when a passenger presents the card, it would possibly say ‘bad read’ on the ticketing machine,” he says.
“In that case,” Mr. Tulloch continues, “the machine would not be able to extract the data, so at that point you would have to pay with cash. If the card is clearly damaged, then certainly there is a level of responsibility that is applied to the passenger. If we are not able to read the card, and it is less obvious, then in those instances, there is some amount of leniency that might be applied if the passenger does not have the cash to pay the fare”. If a passenger has a smart card that malfunctions, he or she should report the card to the JUTC’s head office. “We hot list the card, which is to say, we block it from being used and that applies to whether the card is damaged, or just faulty.In either case, we hot list the card, so that particular card with that particular serial number will no longer be a valid card on the system, so if it is lost, and somebody comes with it and tries to use it, it is blocked from use,” Mr. Tulloch says.
Under the two-year Memorandum of Understanding signed between Government and trade unions representing the sector, are entitled to pay discounted bus fares of $35, but can only do so by purchasing smart cards in amounts ranging from $350 to $1,400. Regular passengers buying smart cards receive a 10 per cent discount from the $50 bus fare and pay $45 per bus trip.
According to Mr. Tulloch, during the 2004/05 financial year, some 17,868 smart cards were sold at point of sale locations, which represented five per cent of the JUTC’s revenue. He adds that the company also developed an in-house team of sales representatives who sold an additional 16,231 cards from September last year.
Since 2003, when the JUTC began selling the smart cards, more than 62,000 cards have been sold.
Mr. Tulloch tells JIS News that there are plans to increase the number of outlets selling smart cards.”We will be looking to go into schools, some of the more traditional schools, trying to get a more stable presence of the cards in these schools. Likewise, we are expanding our current general point of sale locations,” he notes, adding that the JUTC is aiming to open 70 additional locations soon.
He says that 10 locations are expected to be opened by the end of this month, and will include general locations as well as a roll-out in specific schools. The public will be advised of the new locations, he says.
Mr. Tulloch points out that individuals may personalize their cards, providing the vendor with special information of their choice which, in the event of theft or loss, would be used to trace the card through the JUTC system. Once the card has been found, the JUTC would be able to “stop” the card and render it void. The card would then be replaced without charge to the owner.