The National Academies

Transit IDEA J-04/IDEA 04 [Completed (IDEA)]

Management Information Benefits of On-Board Integration of Electronic Fareboxes
[ TCRP J-04 (Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis--The Transit IDEA Program) ]

  Project Data
Staff Responsibility: Harvey Berlin

This project investigated integrating fareboxes with other on-vehicle devices for estimating passenger loads and passenger miles. The farebox has great potential as a source of passenger data because nearly every bus has electronic fareboxes and nearly all boardings are registered by fareboxes. By integrating fareboxes with other on-board equipment, the value of the farebox with the vehicle’s digital odometer makes it possible to stamp farebox records with the odometer reading for verification of trip length. Likewise, integration with additional devices makes it possible to use the fareboxes as a means of counting boardings by stop, providing valuable information for planning and marketing, and opening up the possibility for estimating passenger loads and passenger miles.
Modifications to the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) standards for on-vehicle communication established an industry standard for vehicle area networks (VAN). Those standards better accommodate fareboxes and related data. Developments in the industry toward VAN are generally related to automatic radio vehicle location and enunciator systems. In both cases, the computer that supports that system also serves as a platform for the vehicle logic unit (VLU), which is the brain that manages the VAN. In this IDEA project, the fareboxes are used as the brain for such a network.
The project identified various configurations for enhancing farebox data. By connecting the fareboxes to the headsign, the operator may change route information without dealing with the headsign. Mating the odometer to the farebox to register odometer readings traces route changes. Also, an odometer stamp may be made with every record and is triggered from a door sensor. With the odometer stamp on each record, passenger boardings and miles can be estimated. By incorporating a VAN, all data are shared instead of compiled in each bus. An open standard for communication in a VAN, which includes descriptions of standard messages and message formats, has now been established by SAE.
This IDEA project also developed a method for estimating passenger miles from boarding counts that are odometer stamped. This method was verified on six bus routes provided by Los Angeles Metro. On all six routes, the tests proved that the reliability and accuracy of the method was within 1.5 percent.  The open standards developed in this Transit IDEA project for dedicated communication provide information that is useful in developing specifications for integrating farebox data with other data by transit operators. The method for integrating farebox and other data developed in this project has been used by a major manufacturer of fareboxes, which have been sold to many transit agencies across the country. NTIS # PB97-137509

The final report for this IDEA project can be found at:

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