Cubic Transportation Systems is working on technology that will allow people to pay for bus and subway rides without stopping to swipe or tap a card.

The company is working on technology that will likely combine video analysis, smart cards and mobile apps. "One of the concepts is to have an auto payment line where video analysis allows us to speed up the gate," said Boris Karsch, vice president for strategy and business development for Cubic.

Instead of swiping a card or waving a mobile phone near a reader at the turnstile, the video system would recognize the user's smartphone or card to accept the payment and to identify violators who try to ride without paying. In concept, it's similar to the E-ZPass toll booths on highways, bridges and tunnels, where cars drive directly though E-ZPass lanes instead of stopping to manually pay tolls.

As part of its video strategy, the San Diego-based Cubic this week announced a partnership with the Melbourne, Australia-based SenSen Networks, which analyzes video to spot patterns and other trends.

In the near-term, the partnership will enhance Cubic's NextCity strategy, which integrates video analytics into existing payment and information systems to allow transport operators to regulate traffic demand by setting fees and fare across different modes of transit. NextCity will also enable customers to use apps to manage travel—by train, bus, taxi, private car or bike—by providing real-time information to locate the fastest route.

Since most transit systems already use video technology, they have already cleared the regulatory hurdles, Karsch said.

Cubic is the technology provider behind a number of payment automation projects at transit systems, including the Chicago Transit Authority's open loop Ventra card, a mobile app for San Francisco-area transit, and projects in London and Sydney. Cubic also recently launched a consulting service for transportation companies.

The combination of payments automation and video analytics can help transit systems mitigate the impact of crowding by making it easier to reallocate resources, Karsch said.

"As fare collection technology changes, the challenges that are emerging in larger cities is the growing passenger numbers," Karsch said.

The value of a video payment system would depend on a number of factors, including the amount of work a user needs to do to pay, said Ben Jackson, director of Mercator Advisory Group's prepaid advisory service.

Payments executed by wearables are a possibility for transit payments, he added.

"Speed through the turnstiles is of the essence, particularly at rush hour periods," Jackson said. "Also, no one will want to worry about whether or not their phone battery is charged enough to get them on the train."

Transit authorities are also limited in how much they can do to manage rider volume. Other systems are trying to smooth out volume through special offers to encourage changes in riding patterns—Montreal's transit system recently introduced such a program.

"The issue with peaks in usage are not around fare payments; they are around start and stop times for work," Jackson said.

A payment system that utilizes video would also strain the actual video recording system, said Thad Peterson, a senior analyst at Aite Group.

"Customers want something to work every time, all the time or they will default to something that will," Peterson said. "The pressure of holding up a queue in a transit venue can be significant, and customers don't want to be embarrassed."

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