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Chicago Transit System Fooled By Federal ID Cards

Soulskill posted about 8 months ago | from the also-by-yelling-really-loud-at-the-scanner dept.

Bug 196

New submitter johnslater writes "The Chicago Transit Authority's new 'Ventra' stored-value fare card system has another big problem. It had a difficult birth, with troubles earlier this fall when legitimate cards failed to allow passage, or sometimes double-billed the holders. Last week a server failure disabled a large portion of the system at rush hour. Now it is reported that some federal government employee ID cards allow free rides on the system. The system is being implemented by Cubic Transportation Systems for the bargain price of $454 million."

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196 comments

Hm... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45532461)

...doesn't sound very unintentional to me.

Rahm Emanuel ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45532939)

Hm...doesn't sound very unintentional to me.

I bet Rahm Emanuel still has a federal ID. Current Mayor, former White House Chief of Staff.

Re:Rahm Emanuel ... (1)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | about 8 months ago | (#45533195)

I bet Rahm Emanuel still has a federal ID. Current Mayor, former White House Chief of Staff.

I would be really surprised to see him on the L, even if he could ride for free... unless it was a photo op and this all sounds like they won't be bragging about anything for awhile.

Its a beta test ... (1)

drnb (2434720) | about 8 months ago | (#45533037)

...doesn't sound very unintentional to me.

Its a beta test for when we all have federally issued ID cards. :-)

$454 million?? (5, Insightful)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about 8 months ago | (#45532469)

For that amount, they could have failed at health care for most of the country. How does one city get that far lost?

Re:$454 million?? (3, Interesting)

Spy Handler (822350) | about 8 months ago | (#45532627)

People like to rag on China's rampant corruption and how their high speed rail minister got jailed for skimming $ millions.

Well, at least they have a functioning high speed rail. USA is just as corrupt, I guess Chicago politics especially, and unlike the Chinese we're left with nothing valuable at the end of the day.

Re:$454 million?? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45533133)

At least the chinese, in a token attempt to appease the populace, recently started to pluck their human sacrifices from the top of the pile instead of the bottom of the pile.

http://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2012/06/08/chinese-official-sentenced-to-death-taking-bribes-from-cjia-contractor/ [kaieteurnewsonline.com]
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/08/liu-zhijun-sentenced-death-corruption [theguardian.com]

Of course the death sentence is ususally commuted to life in prison for the a-listers. But it is at least a start. In the US you never see that happen.

Re:$454 million?? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45532705)

For that amount, they could have failed at health care for most of the country. How does one city get that far lost?

Keep in mind that this is the city Obama got his political start in.

Re:$454 million?? (-1, Flamebait)

JustOK (667959) | about 8 months ago | (#45533295)

Bullshit. It was Nairobi.

Re:$454 million?? (2)

GigaplexNZ (1233886) | about 8 months ago | (#45532949)

Still cheaper than Myki [wikipedia.org]

Don't know the cost of failure yet ... (2)

drnb (2434720) | about 8 months ago | (#45532967)

For that amount, they could have failed at health care for most of the country. How does one city get that far lost?

We don't really know what it costs to fail at a national health care IT project yet. They have even started to implement 40% of the functionality.

Re:$454 million?? (2)

Lumpy (12016) | about 8 months ago | (#45533757)

It's Chicago, they are so corrupt it makes DC look like the largest source of honest people on the planet. There is a reason why it is a common saying that "in Chicago, the dead vote twice" It is normal that contracts are kickbacks and given projects designed to make companies and people filthy rich while not delivering.

Re:$454 million?? (1)

wiredlogic (135348) | about 8 months ago | (#45533933)

While I'm sure there's no small amount of Chicago corruption involved, that cost includes ruggedized public access hardware for card vending and reading. That will significantly increase the costs compared to the development costs of a website. Just be glad they didn't try to implement mall kiosks for healthcare.gov.

Re:$454 million?? (1)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about 8 months ago | (#45534133)

Good point. While my post was written for the chuckles, I didn't consider the hardware aspect of the project.

What's wrong with Tokens? (4, Interesting)

ScottCooperDotNet (929575) | about 8 months ago | (#45532471)

Why are all cities moving from easy-to-use tokens to these expensive, complicated systems?

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (5, Insightful)

runeghost (2509522) | about 8 months ago | (#45532525)

Well-connected corporations don't get paid hundreds of millions for existing, functional systems.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45532639)

Seriously, if a corporation is going to spend a couple hundred thousand dollars buying off a Senator, they sure as well should get some money back themselves.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (4, Insightful)

DarkOx (621550) | about 8 months ago | (#45532655)

The old fashion subway token produces little meta-data the NSA can use to track your every move.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45532673)

Because it's the future, man!

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45532683)

With the city of Seattle, it's a huge boon for the city because they charge so much for the cards. It's a high tax on tourists since they have to buy the Orca Card for just a $2 bus ride. I'm glad they didn't follow the model LA did with TAP (Transit Access Pass) where they give-out the cards for free so residents do not gain any advantage.

As to reliability, it can be pretty bad at times, but you have to keep in mind that their target reliability is a paper dollar bill fed to a poorly maintained scanner. It beats that. I used to have to break the law and ride for free about once a month because the machine wouldn't take my bill. Currently, Orca is down only every quarter or so.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (1)

Mark19960 (539856) | about 8 months ago | (#45532685)

Tracking.
Now they know who you are and where your going.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (1)

ScottCooperDotNet (929575) | about 8 months ago | (#45532883)

If that was used to improve service, it would be more palatable, but I've not heard of anyone caught because of their transit ticket.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (3, Interesting)

aaronb1138 (2035478) | about 8 months ago | (#45532989)

Several people are trying to make this completely false point in the bullshitty post Snowden mass media... It requires an incredible amount of ignorance to believe. Facial recognition is plenty fast to track you throughout public transit with trivial difficulty. Cards can be swapped and purchased anonymously. Why would any nefarious government agency wishing to track citizens leave it up to chance like that?

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (2)

aaronb1138 (2035478) | about 8 months ago | (#45533015)

Bonus with facial recognition, they also have clues as to your mood, disposition, and intentions.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 8 months ago | (#45533557)

Actually, facial recognition in the field has a high false positive rate, and tracking fails fairly easily.

It doesn't take much to throw it off - duck into a shop, walk with someone else, put on or take off a coat/hat - most facial recognition is at a fair distance, no matter what your TV shows tell you. The resolution is fairly low, as is the frame rate.

The way they usually track you is from your cell phone, which you think isn't on, but is. But even that is from log files, not real time data, so it's mostly used in a reconstructive manner. Most cities have hidden passive cell networks that "read" you as you move through chokepoints - those are used for real time data.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (2)

femtobyte (710429) | about 8 months ago | (#45533709)

Why stop at one mode of tracking when multiple systems allow far more reliable results? Any one tracking mode will deal with a lot of noise, including intentional obfuscation. You can swap around transit cards; wear a hoodie; leave your cellphone at home/work; etc. However, combine multiple systems and you get something far more robust --- match up a person's cell phone, transit card, and facial features, and you've got a far more reliable tool. You can even identify groups of people trying to subvert one system, and tag them as super-suspicious. Regularly trade transit passes with your friend, and the system can spot that from alternate tracking data, and put you both on "the list" of potential terrorist conspirators (hey, probable cause for full wiretaps on all your other communications, too!).

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (2)

Lumpy (12016) | about 8 months ago | (#45533809)

You dont know much about this tech. firstly you have to be damn close for facial recognition to work, only very few systems use HD cameras to be able to work at a distance and then they get overwhelmed when there is more than 5 faces on the camera. Please stop mixing up SciFi with the stuff we really have. In reality, it doesnt work that well because the cops would have it deployed everywhere to have a low effort high capture rate on minor criminals. Even something as simple as the License plate cameras only have an 80% accuracy rate and the cops have to be quite close to you, more than 150 feet away and they cant read a high contrast license plate.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 8 months ago | (#45534297)

Facial recognition is plenty fast to track you throughout public transit with trivial difficulty

Citation required. I'd totally buy that they can track a rider on a single trip. But tracking everybody across every trip they make every day of the year. No way.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (5, Informative)

volstok (825649) | about 8 months ago | (#45532711)

Why are all cities moving from easy-to-use tokens to these expensive, complicated systems?

Cities move away from tokens to fare cards so they can charge variable rates based on supply and demand. During peak usage, they can make the fee higher and during times of lower ridership, fares can be made cheaper to encourage more ridership. Also general rate hikes cannot be done as quickly with tokens because people can buy a mass of tokens just before the rate hike yet still ride with their pre-hike token after the hike goes into effect.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45532771)

Also general rate hikes cannot be done as quickly with tokens because people can buy a mass of tokens just before the rate hike yet still ride with their pre-hike token after the hike goes into effect.

Announcing a rate hike is a very effective way of raising capital. Consumers think they get a bargain by paying the older rate, but you get use their cash to earn interest or pay off debt.

A big drawback to the card system is that it eliminates this ploy.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (1)

mythosaz (572040) | about 8 months ago | (#45532807)

A big drawback to the card system is that it eliminates this ploy.

Yeah, 'cause it'd be impossible to allow people with a card linked to an account to pre-buy fares at a lower rate.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (1)

ScottCooperDotNet (929575) | about 8 months ago | (#45532861)

The Boston MBTA system doesn't put fares on the card, but just the dollar amount, so the fairs could be hiked easily.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (1)

mythosaz (572040) | about 8 months ago | (#45532933)

The point is that it isn't merely the card that does this, but the system behind it.

Also, storing anything on the card itself beyond an identifier -- my Visa doesn't hold my balance -- seems silly.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (2)

petermgreen (876956) | about 8 months ago | (#45534313)

Having cards with only an ID number has disadvantages. Either you require all payment accepters to be continuously online* or you lose the ability to tell people their balance in realtime and refuse people who have run out of credit.

The best compromise is probably to store the balance on both the card and in a central database. Then cross-check those values frequently to check for foul play.

* Which is problematic for a transport system.

excuses for surveillance! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45532809)

> so they can charge variable rates based on supply and demand.

> During peak usage, they can make the fee higher

NO NO NO NO NO

Boston MBTA has fare cards and THEY DO NOT DO ANY OF THESE THINGS

> because people can buy a mass of tokens just before the rate hike

You have apparently NEVER seen the mechanisms and tokens switched out at a fare hike!

But you DO give good cover for surveillance

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45532721)

Well, the US does have a thing for over-complicated transport systems and regulations that don't really do what they are supposed to do and cost hundreds of millions of taxpayers money. Take the TSA for example, these systems are pretty much a gold-sink so the money doesn't de-evaluate so quickly and the gold farmers are kept away, at least I think that's the 'logic' behind it.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (0)

Dunbal (464142) | about 8 months ago | (#45532749)

The ability to track you and know where you are and where you are going. They used to call me paranoid, but not anymore.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45532855)

They used to call me paranoid, but not anymore

I swear, that has got to be the very theme for the American IT industry over the last 20 years. We spent the late 1980s and early 1990s dreaming up all kinds of crazy tinfoil-hat paranoid scifi bullshit. And then many of us all got jobs implementing that crazy tinfoil-hat paranoid scifi bullshit, because the whole thing that made it believable, good paranoid scifi bullshit, was "hey, this is theoretically actually possible to do."

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45533059)

The ability to track you and know where you are and where you are going. They used to call me paranoid, but not anymore.

Uh, they can do that with cameras already.

What you tinfoil types STILL don't understand is that the government isn't out to get YOU. Yes, they may be scooping up data on large numbers of people, but YOUR paranoia is that "they" are "out to get you"... you in particular. And really, they're not, you're just another nobody like the rest of us. (No, I'm not excusing or making light of government surveillance, just pointing out the difference between reasonable concern and clinical paranoia)

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about 8 months ago | (#45533553)

If the information is stored somewhere and kept on file, then it can be used against you at any time in the future. "If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him." - Richelieu. No one is tracking me today. In the future - what if I happen to piss off the wrong person? Or vote for the wrong party? Etc. You're the one that doesn't get it.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (1)

CanadianMacFan (1900244) | about 8 months ago | (#45533833)

No, you are still paranoid. Just that you are justifiably paranoid now.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45532759)

Simple: You can't track tokens... Can't let people ride around without a record of where they went! Someone might do something the NSA doesn't know about!

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (5, Insightful)

Solandri (704621) | about 8 months ago | (#45532789)

The Chicago Transit Authority provided 620 million rides [wikipedia.org] in 2011. A $454 million system thus represents a cost of just 7 cents per ride over 10 years, compared to the typical $2-$5 fare per ride. I think the vast majority of public transport riders would say an extra 7 cents per ride is worth it for the convenience of a card which they can buy/refill online vs tokens they have to stand in line to buy. Even if the average rider has to fumble around just 10 seconds per trip to buy a token, that represents over two hours per person in lost time each year, and a staggering 196 man-years lost each year for the entire city.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (1)

ScottCooperDotNet (929575) | about 8 months ago | (#45532843)

Why couldn't tokens be purchased online? Under the electronic systems, the average rider would still have to 'fumble around' for their ticket anyway. Leaving them visible exposes them to theft.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45533157)

> Why couldn't tokens be purchased online

Authentication is one huge problem. In the Seattle area, we have the Orca disaster:

https://www.orcacard.com/

You typically have to call every time you need to login to add more money through the web site. The automated account creation is still broken, and the receptionist at work spends a full day each month refilling our cards(company pays as a benefit). It's a huge hassle. Even more annoying is that there is so much credit card fraud with Orca that certain banks will automatically suspend your card when you pay since you're not swiping in person like I've done in Chicago and LA that doesn't result in your card being suspended. Every single time I refill my Orca card with my Bank of America credit card, I have to call BoA to get them to unsuspend my card. Also, the Orca employees will refuse to reload the card unless you use the term e-purse. They are ordered to lie and pretend they do not know what the words deposit, add, or reload mean. That makes it even harder for the average person to deal with them.

Finally, the online deposits are unreliable. From the site after making a purchase:

"Reminder: To complete transaction, tap card in 24-48 hours.."

That is the biggest hassle. A lot of people keep the cards for emergencies or for trips, like to the airport, that they only make a few times per year, and Orca will inactivate the amount you deposited and require you to spend hours on the phone with them if you don't "activate" the deposit. There's no technical reason for them to be such jerks and take your money like this.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45533705)

There is a technical reason for the activation requirement -- while the system normally does online lookups it also stores non-authoritative data on the card so that it can be used even if online lookups are not available. I order to support this that data must be pushed to the card during a swipe, and the limited time period (which is much longer 48 hours -- you're quoting the "will be available by" time not the "you must swipe before" time) just helps them keep the number of latency-sensitive updates low. You could argue it's a poor implementation, or not worth doing, but it's not "no technical reason".

I'd also note that your experience with the online ORCA account processing is so far from typical it's hard to take you seriously (among other things, if your credit card company treats all card-not-present transactions as strong indicators of fraud risk how do you buy anything online?). With respect to the "receptionist spends a full day" issue, the ORCA system has alternatives for mass-processing specifically for doing things like letting a company buy passes for all employees in a single transaction; you can do the integration work yourself or hire any of a dozen third-party benefit processors to do it for you, and once it's setup all you have to do is notify them of changes to the status quo. Similarly you can setup recurring transactions for individuals, including on-demand transactions for the e-purse, so even if initial setup required a phone call it's not something you'd have to repeat frequently. There are lots of things to complain about with ORCA, but suggesting that typical ORCA users spend more time dealing with their ORCA card online (or the phone, even if that is necessary, which has not been my experience) than they would showing up in-person to buy tokens or physical passes is absurd.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45533217)

> Why couldn't tokens be purchased online?

Hugely bad idea. I travel a lot for work, and every transit system where I've made a card present purchase has gone well. Every city where I've done it online, my bank has locked my card.

Another hassle is proving that you made the purchase. Sound Transit in the Seattle area is the worst. You have to scan the card within a few hours after making the online purchase. Otherwise they'll zero the balance and keep your money. You'll have to waste hours on the phone to get a refund. If you do a chargeback, your card will no longer work for good, and you'll have to buy a new one.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45532907)

> for the convenience of a card which they can buy/refill online vs tokens they have to stand in line to buy.

the convenience is MOOT when the line at the vending machines is as long as the line was at the ticket window

the convenience is MOOT when you can't peel a few fares from your card for your friends and children

the convenience is MOOT when your every movement can be subpoenaed by your ex-wife or your employer

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45533763)

The vending machine line is MOOT if there are enough machines, or if you just use your own computer from home, or if you setup automatic transactions. And at least on my system cards are not tied to a particular person so they can easily be handed off as well as used to pay for more than on fare at a time if you're traveling together.

Tracking can certainly be a problem, but that's a tradeoff, not an invalidation of other points. Owning registered property (cars, land, businesses, etc.) also reduces your privacy, but certainly has other benefits. And at least on my system it's possible to buy a card with cash at a vending machine without any registration information or user-facing camera, as well as to trade cards after purchase -- usage is still tracked but it's not trivially subpoenaed to allow anyone to track you individually.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (1)

Wintermute__ (22920) | about 8 months ago | (#45532917)

How's your productivity when the system is down?

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45533141)

Even if the average rider has to fumble around just 10 seconds per trip to buy a token, that represents over two hours per person in lost time each year, and a staggering 196 man-years lost each year for the entire city.

Nice spin. Only the most casual rider would buy a single token every time they use the system. Most would buy a whole bunch at a time. Where I live you can even buy them from corner stores and drugstores, so you buy them at the same as other stuff, losing no time.

The lost 196 man-year figure is pure hyperbole. First of all, nobody's schedule should be so hectic that they can't afford spending a few minutes here and there buying stuff, and there's no point saving 10 seconds when you have to wait 5 minutes for the next train or 10 minutes for the next bus. Yes, add up all those times waiting for the next bus and you get a staggering gazillion man-years lost, why not mention that?

A $454 million system thus represents a cost of just 7 cents per ride over 10 years, compared to the typical $2-$5 fare per ride.

But it provides marginal convenience, you're much better off spending that money on more trains and buses, or improving the facilities. Then again is that the only "7 cents per ride" they'll spend over 10 years? They'll probably spend "7 cents per ride" every year on something, increasing the fare by 70 cents over 10 years. That's a staggering 35% increase in the cost of a $2 fare for very little return. Let's just stagger into spending money where it's worth it.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 8 months ago | (#45533867)

When I lived in chicago we would do exactly this, I would leave work and notice that a machine was clear and buy $50 in tokens. I was set for at least 2 months. Plus when friends showed up it was easy to give them some to ride with me, etc...

Only people that never actually used the system thinks that people stop and buy them every single day.

Re: What's wrong with Tokens? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45533213)

> worth it for the convenience of a card which they can buy/refill online vs tokens

We already had with the previous CTA card. Ventra provides zero additional convenience, and is instead a refillable card that is much more difficult to use and refill. It's a money grab and nothing more.

Re: What's wrong with Tokens? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45533591)

Except the CTA already had a functioning system with the Chicago Card. The benefit for Ventra is adding PACE busses and the option for a debit card.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45532829)

In the Bay, multiple points-of-payment across multiple agencies (SFMTA, BART, AC Transit, and others) were replaced with a single card (http://www.clippercard.com). It's been extraordinarily well-received, and, afaik hasn't suffered from any massive system-wide failures.

I'm sure it was a very expensive project, but I don't know that you'd fine anyone who had a reasonable complaint with the way it turned out.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (1)

foobar bazbot (3352433) | about 8 months ago | (#45533455)

I'm sure it was a very expensive project, but I don't know that you'd fine anyone who had a reasonable complaint with the way it turned out.

I certainly hope not! That'd be a major freedom of speech issue, whether or not their complaint was "reasonable".

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (2)

djlemma (1053860) | about 8 months ago | (#45532873)

Well, everybody else is saying tracking.. but there are legitimate reasons to use fare cards. One is that you gain the ability to have unlimited ride passes- pay a flat fee and ride the train for free all month. Hard to do that with tokens. Also, many cities charge variable amounts depending on how far you go on the train. You swipe your card to go in, and swipe again when you leave, and it charges based on distance. That way, short trips can be cheaper. It's also possible to have different prices for different services- like NYC charging a higher fare for an express bus or for the AirTrain to JFK.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45532905)

I have an even better idea than tokens. Make public transportation free

In 2012, the CTA gavea total of 545 million rides [transitchicago.com] . They're spending $450 million to collect fares from 550 million people.

If CTA runs their system like every other public transportation system, the fares are decreasing ridership, fare enforcement creates an adversarial mood on the bus, and fare collection is slowing the bus down significantly. And, public transportation often has the most convoluted fare structure imaginable. Sure, the cash fare is straightforward, but a lot of cities have twenty or more programs for prepaid cards. The next time you're on the bus, look around and realize that every single person on the bus with a pre-paid card probably got the card in a different way for a different price under a different program. There's no reason that local municpal bus fares should be more complicated that airline fares.

Seriously, just make the bus free. Make it more useful for everyone.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45533153)

I have an even better idea than tokens. Make public transportation free ...

^ This ^ is the solution; it costs less to do it for free.

The lack of focus created by thinking it has to be a for-profit operation being mixed with the mistaken thought of being a social service for the economically disenfranchised is a well meaning but broken illusion. Being gratis would mainstream the transit system (from bum-itis) and seriously alleviate commuter congestion and its associated costs.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45533253)

^ This ^ is the solution; it costs less to do it for free.

The lack of focus created by thinking it has to be a for-profit operation being mixed with the mistaken thought of being a social service for the economically disenfranchised is a well meaning but broken illusion. Being gratis would mainstream the transit system (from bum-itis) and seriously alleviate commuter congestion and its associated costs.

I think they already do this in parts of Denver, Colorado and Seattle, Washington. How's that working?

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (1)

profplump (309017) | about 8 months ago | (#45533815)

It was working fine here in Seattle (and Des Moines, where I know they also provide some free downtown bus service). Since the whole route wasn't free it created some hassle with payment collection, but that's only an issue with the mix-and-match plan not the free part. The program has ended recently as funding for it was withdrawn but statistics suggest it did increase ridership in the free zone.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (2)

Lumpy (12016) | about 8 months ago | (#45533883)

Problem is in chicago, in fact starting now until april the red line becomes a homeless shelter. they get on and dont get off all night long so they have a warm place to sleep.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45532931)

Why are all cities moving from easy-to-use tokens to these expensive, complicated systems?

The cost of making and keeping track of fake money costs a lot -- real money has security issues with its own costs. Although it did make it harder to game the system, it had some fairly obvious problems.

Hopefully they'll go back to using what The Bay Area Rapid Transit system (in San Francisco, California) used for decades -- a read/writeable magnetic strip on the back of a paper ticket that worked exactly like the floppy disk everyone used until flash drives took over -- changing the value only required a different type of hardware. HhHeh.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45533019)

Why are all cities moving from easy-to-use tokens to these expensive, complicated systems?

Tokens are extremely easy to counterfeit, and it's easy to scam the machines which "read" them as well. Tokens are actually fairly expensive systems, as you have to "mint" them, clean them, and regularly service the machines which take (and sell) them.

Not that this new system is really all that much better, but the old style tokens are not at all free of problems.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (1)

M. Baranczak (726671) | about 8 months ago | (#45533381)

You can ask the same thing about voting machines. It's like some people are in a race to find more and more ways to fuck up a perfectly simple task.

Re:What's wrong with Tokens? (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 8 months ago | (#45533775)

You cant give your buddies multi billion dollar contracts with coins. Plus the damn things keep working decade after decade, and we can not allow that.

bug or feature? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45532481)

Sounds like someone put in a little something to get free stuff for the feds.

Are you sure it's a bug? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45532539)

That doesn't look like something that would happen by accident.

USA + Persian alliance = Aryan world dominance (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45532617)

The Judeo-Saudi run is over, Al-Qaeda, Israel and the rest of the desert turds can pound sand. On top of that there is a progressive forward thinking pope rejuvenating Christiantiy! The White man is coming back!

going with the lowest bidder (1)

Gravis Zero (934156) | about 8 months ago | (#45532651)

you get what you pay for.

This was planned (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45533245)

The same company makes the current and future card system used by WMATA and they intend to let federal employees use their PIV cards to charge the gov for subsidized rides

Re:going with the lowest bidder (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45533435)

lowest bidder? or the bidder passing the most money back under-the-table?

In Turkey, these systems run more than 10 years (1)

Delifisek (190943) | about 8 months ago | (#45532687)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akbil_(smart_ticket) [wikipedia.org]

It was unbelievable, Guys, it seems you had serious problems in government.

Re:In Turkey, these systems run more than 10 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45532775)

Same in London, UK: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oyster_card

Re:In Turkey, these systems run more than 10 years (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 8 months ago | (#45532863)

Apparently, it's being replaced by something called Istanbulkart [wikipedia.org] , which, coincidentally, will also give free ride to government employees. (Do I see a trend here?)

Re:In Turkey, these systems run more than 10 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45533323)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akbil_(smart_ticket) [wikipedia.org]

It was unbelievable, Guys, it seems you had serious problems in government.

The San Francisco Bay Area is using a similar or the same technology--calling it the Clipper Card.

Corporate welfare (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45532691)

$454 million to collect subway fares? Would love to know how many bribes brought this trainwreck into being.

Didn't anyone sit down at any point to run a few numbers on evasion losses using the current system versus the new one? If it's less that $50 million difference per year, it's a no-brainer to stick with the existing system.

Corporate welfare at its most blatant.

Re:Corporate welfare (0)

Lumpy (12016) | about 8 months ago | (#45533889)

It's what republicans are good at. Fuck the poor but give money hand over fist to companies and the rich.

London Oyster (4, Informative)

sugar and acid (88555) | about 8 months ago | (#45532751)

The reason that everybody is trying to move to this type of things is the success of the London oyster card system. Not perfect, but good enough, and is widely adopted.

The key with the London system was the transit fare system was very well integrated to start with. If you bought a zone 1-4 weekly pass, you could take buses tube and trains everywhere within zone 1-4.

The trick to getting adoption was the cash "penalty" fare. For instance a cash bus fare is nearly twice the price of an oyster card fare. And if you buy a season ticket it gets loaded onto an oyster card. So anybody in London needs an oyster card, and so has one.

The other effective thing that was done was to only have oyster top up and ticket sales at stations and offered exclusively to local independent corner stores. The advantage to the store holder is 2 fold, it gave a small financial return to the store owner, but more importantly for the store owner it got people in the store. Topping up oyster cards and at the same time getting a drink or chocolate bar etc. So very quickly every store had one, and in London there are a lot of them so it was widely accessible with very little staffing costs.

Re:London Oyster (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about 8 months ago | (#45532903)

The Oyster Card really makes a huge difference to the transport experience in London, so much so that you find many many people wondering why it hasn't been rolled out nationally

Re:London Oyster (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45533209)

Because the rest of the country dosnt have the heavily subsidised ublic transport London has. Also London was excused from Thatchers deregulation of Public transport which meant the rest of the country got expensive , fragmented services if companies thought they could make a profit.

Cheap Bus fares? Hardly its £5 for a 3 mile trip were I Live and before you ask there are health reasons I cant walk / cycle / car it.

Re:London Oyster (1)

gnoshi (314933) | about 8 months ago | (#45533097)

The funny thing is that everybody seems to want to roll out an oyster card system, but many places want to roll out their own oyster card system, and that leads to cost blowouts because (it seems) many organisations can't manage to do an IT project without falling on their face.
e.g. Auckland Transport [stuff.co.nz] with their AT HOP card [wikipedia.org] .
myki in Melbourne, Australia [theage.com.au] which blew out by about $1 billion (on an original ~$0.5 billion cost). To quote from a report discussed in this article [smh.com.au] : ''Keane [who won the contract to make the card system] had no corporate experience in developing, implementing and operating a ticketing system Keane has barely demonstrated adequate capacity.''

Actually, the best question is in that same article:
"Another question is why, given the ambitions for the project, the company was chosen over smartcard specialists, including Cubic, which created many US systems and worked on Oyster, and the group behind Hong Kong's Octopus smartcard."
And why does everyone make this same mistake.

Re:London Oyster (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45534141)

Where I live we've had all the same benefits without a smart card but just paper tickets: tickets give you a big discount on fares over cash, and you can buy tickets from any corner store, as few or as many as you like.

Not to mention that, as it's been pointed out elsewhere, you can easily share your paper tickets with your companions, or visitors from out-of-town, can't do the same with smart cards.

Could this be streamlined? (5, Interesting)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about 8 months ago | (#45532889)

I just now hopped over to the CTA website and checked out their budget [transitchicago.com] .

In broad terms, they take in about $650 million from fares, $650 million in public funding (from taxes), and an operating budget of $1.3 billion.

Hypothetically speaking, what would the budget be if they eliminated fares? The budget doesn't break out the expenses in a way to examine this (at least - I couldn't find it), but it would eliminate a big chunk of the expenses. Not only are there turnstyles and fare sellers, but collection and counting of the money, maintenance on the styles and ticket machines, and so on. Even the financial cost of maintaining a bank account and driving the money to the bank for deposit could be eliminated.

On the flip side, a person making $15/hr delayed by waiting in line at the turnstyle or purchasing tokens/tickets loses $0.25 worth of time for each minute of delay. A commuter would lose this much twice a day, and the loss would be more valuable if the commuter made more money.

And this change would benefit poor people the most. It's an efficient way to preferentially give them the benefit of a public service.

It seems like a more efficient method might be to eliminate the fares and increase public support to cover the difference. The net gain in customer time plus eliminating the fare network might be more than the increase in taxes. Just eliminating the fare mechanisms alone might reduce expenses enough to cover the loss of revenue.

Has anyone looked into this?

Re:Could this be streamlined? (4, Insightful)

scamper_22 (1073470) | about 8 months ago | (#45533211)

What's interesting is the question on why public transit is viewed so differently than other public functions.

I'm in Canada. Land of public healthcare. We cannot charge people to see a doctor or anything like that.

Ditto for public education.

Yet, even in Canada, transit remains that elusive thing that while it is publicly run and subsidized, it is 'unthinkable' that people shouldn't pay for it.
This is even true of roads, with increasing calls for more tolls to make drivers pay...

For the life of me, I cannot fathom why we treat public infrastructure (like roads and mass transit) so much differently than we do healthcare and education.

Yes, there are various nuances. Things like making sure people don't overuse or congest the system. Of course you could just as easily make that argument for healthcare :P But I think the overwhelming argument is simply that transit is not viewed on the same social level as healthcare or education despite the fact that transit is something we used every single day in and out... and quite frankly relative to the size of government budgets, transit itself is fairly inexpensive.

I laugh with despair when my home province of Ontario spends like 40% of its budget on healthcare, throws billions and billions into education... then people fight and squabble over a hundred million here or there with transit.

It's ridiculous quite frankly.

Re:Could this be streamlined? (1)

femtobyte (710429) | about 8 months ago | (#45534221)

I agree it's ridiculous. I suspect it's the residue of so many people being indoctrinated into Capitalist ideals: the very phrase "free rider" encapsulates all the negative connotations drilled into people's heads from birth about the horrors of letting fellow humans benefit without paying. Healthcare and education are obviously too expensive, and too beneficial, for individuals to be charged the full cost up front --- they highlight how ridiculous a pure Capitalist system would be; and, how great benefits for society can be generated through common action and investment in the public good. Transit fare is still inexpensive enough that it's not blatantly ridiculous to think about asking a lower-income person to cough up a couple bucks to pay; even though it would be far more efficient and sensible to forget about payment altogether. The only moderately ridiculous status of enforcing public transit fares is not enough to overcome the high ideological barriers of Capitalism.

Re:Could this be streamlined? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45533441)

I suspect they charge fares for the same reason that local government where I live charges for car-parking spaces: demand management.

Re:Could this be streamlined? (1)

profplump (309017) | about 8 months ago | (#45533875)

Charging for parking doesn't do a lot to regulate demand, it's done to regulate turnover. Essentially all publicly-run pay parking is also time-limited, and frequently the rate for short-term usage is lower than commercial parking in the same area. Demand for parking is more or less inelastic because people still need to go places whether or parking is expensive; at best expensive parking encourages the use of other modes of transit.

Turnover isn't actually an issue on public conveyances; loitering *could* be, depending on the circumstances, but most transit systems include a layover point where it's easy to determine if someone is merely camping out.

Re:Could this be streamlined? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45533571)

You forgot to count their album sales!

Re:Could this be streamlined? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45533697)

I think it's because there are enough people who hate the idea of public transportation in general that they'd hate it even more if there wasn't a charge per ride. They'd be more prone to not only voting against it but fund campaigns against it, if it was free. You might be surprised how much time and money people are willing to spend in order to make sure other people don't get things they don't want or like.

Re:Could this be streamlined? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45533943)

On the flip side, a person making $15/hr delayed by waiting in line at the turnstyle or purchasing tokens/tickets loses $0.25 worth of time for each minute of delay. A commuter would lose this much twice a day, and the loss would be more valuable if the commuter made more money.

While there are strong arguments for making public transit free, this paragraph of yours is outrageously silly and incorrect.

People don't work and get paid for every waking moment of their lives. Most work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, that's it. You can't go to your boss and say "look I saved 2 minutes today not buying tickets, so can I work an extra 2 minutes and get paid an extra 50 cents?" That's just plain silly, if you have to buy tickets you leave home a few minutes earlier and work the same 8 hours, or you get there a minute late and either leave work a minute later than usual or get yelled at by your boss.

No matter, the whole "look I saved a minute not buying tickets" is ridiculous, you still end up waiting many more minutes for the next train or bus. They don't run continuously you know.

And commuters losing more time twice a day? You got to be kidding! Any commuter with half a brain would just buy a monthly pass. If you're so stupid to pay cash twice a day, 20 days a month you deserve to have your time wasted.

Don't pollute your arguments with silly ones, it only makes you look sillier.

Re:Could this be streamlined? (1)

CauseBy (3029989) | about 8 months ago | (#45534329)

Yeah they looked into it but it turns out that Jesus was against it so the conservatives wouldn't support it.

The Author of TFA on Free Rides is Lazy (2)

mythosaz (572040) | about 8 months ago | (#45532909)

[...also, sky blue, water wet.]

I kept waiting for the article that said, "So we went down to a transit terminal armed with as many different RFID and NFC cards as we could find, trying to see which ones worked and which didn't." Then we used our easily purchasable RFID/NFC card reader to see what information the cards we tried had in common with the Federal IDs and the transit cards -- and here's our findings.

Now, I understood *that* sort of journalism would have taken a hundred bucks and a couple of hours, but... ...sheesh, people.

"Misuse of federal credentials?" (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 8 months ago | (#45532959)

"Please be advised that intentional misuse of federal credentials is prohibited"

That's sort of pushing it, isn't it? I don't think the machine is letting them in on basis of the card being a federal credential. It probably lets them in on bases of the one system being confused by a different system's raw data. It could easily be interpreted as fraud but unless the system actually understands on some level that this is a government ID card, it's hardly comparable to pulling a scary-looking badge on a live person or something.

Re:"Misuse of federal credentials?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45533071)

Using it once, maybe even a couple times is a mistake.
Using it the rest of the week (or really, at all) after being told not to, is at the very least misuse, if not fraud

Title 18, Section 499: "Whoever ... with intent to defraud uses or possesses any such pass or permit ... shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both."

and the metra rail system is still on the hole puc (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 8 months ago | (#45533341)

and the metra rail system is still on the hole punch system

Re:and the metra rail system is still on the hole (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45533843)

which works wonderfully. All the conductor has to do is walk down the car punch a hole in the 10 ride and one way tickets and sell tickets to the people who didn't buy them at the station. During rush hour a conductor can check a car in about 2 to 3 minuets tops while the train is in motion. this works because most passengers buy their tickets at the station and the Metra fare structure is setup so that each train ride costs the same proportional to how far you travel on their system. CTA and Pace, which use the new system, are setup so that the driver has a minuet or less at each stop to make sure the people getting on pay the proper fare on a fare system that has different rates based on the number of transfers that a person makes.

Myki! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45533491)

Ha! We here in melbourne laugh at your statements and install $1,500,000,000 dollar Ticketing systems!

Number clash (1)

manu0601 (2221348) | about 8 months ago | (#45534157)

IIRC, their RFID card just broadcast a number, and the government cards broadcast valid numbers as well. This suggests that government cards do not allow free ride, but ride on someone else's account.

What I do not get is that TFA says the cards have a smart chip. Why then just use a number, where they can do better?

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