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Is RFID Being Used on Public Buses?

Posted By RFID Journal, 06.11.2012
Are there any examples of radio frequency identification technology being utilized to track such vehicles?

—Name withheld

Yes, there are several examples.

Transit companies in Texas and the U.S. Northeast and Midwest are piloting a public-transit management solution using RFID technology to augment the location information provided by a GPS-based bus-tracking system. Using a 2.4 GHz RFID transceiver installed on a bus, with the same type of transceiver deployed at bus stops, a transit company can pinpoint the exact moment that a vehicle comes within 100 meters (328 feet) of each stop, thereby providing riders with more accurate information (see RFID Improves ETA Info for Bus Passengers).

Coast Mountain Bus Co. (CMBC), located in British Columbia, Canada, has deployed an RFID-based automated fuel-management system at its fueling stations. The system authenticates each of the company's busses, allows drivers to fill up vehicles with the appropriate fuel and stores data regarding fuelings and engine performance, including idle times and miles traveled (see RFID Aids Fueling for Canadian Bus Operator).

National and European Union regulations require that public transit operators across Europe provide more information for blind and visually impaired riders. A Swiss public transport agency, Verkehrsbetriebe St. Gallen (VBSG), has rolled out an RFID-based system enabling blind riders to check transit information at bus stops, as well as determine the destination of a passing bus and flag it down (see Swiss Town Rolls Out RFID System for Blind Bus Riders).

Many bus companies around the world are also introducing Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, in order to allow riders to pay for a fare using an NFC-enabled cell phone. One of the first deployments was in 2006, when Rhein-Main Verkehrsverbund (RMV), the public transport authority for the greater Frankfurt, Germany area, launched a system enabling customers to employ NFC-enabled mobile phones to pay for travel on nearly 200 busses operating in the city of Hanau, just outside Frankfurt (see Bus Riders in Hanau Use RFID to Go).

And in 2009, a consortium of seven transit agencies, including Sound Transit—the Puget Sound's regional transit authority, in the Seattle, Wash., area—launched a system for transit users to access ferries, buses and trains by tapping a single RFID ORCA card. ORCA (an acronym derived from the phrase "One Regional Card for All") features a card containing a 13.56 MHz passive RFID tag compliant with NFC specifications, and enables passengers to load funds onto an account, from which they can then draw every time they ride a bus, train or ferry in Seattle, or in neighboring counties (see ORCA Puts Ferries, Buses and Trains on One Ticket).

The above-mentioned are just some of the most common applications of radio frequency identification on public bus systems. RFID can, of course, also be used to manage spare parts, tools and equipment used to maintain buses, as well as for other applications that would be more common within manufacturing operations.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor,
RFID Journal

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