Payments in Transit: Ventra Rolls Out in Chicago, Octopus Unveils Mobile Plans (Sept. 10, 2013)
Two major mass transit contactless payment initiatives are speeding forward this week, with the debut of Chicago’s Ventra system and the announcement of a smartphone-based payment feature for Hong Kong’s transit network.
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and suburban bus operator Pace began rolling out the contactless Ventra payment card yesterday. A partnership between Cubic Transportation Systems Inc., MasterCard and Money Network, a First Data company, Ventra features a closed-loop account for transit payments and an optional reloadable prepaid account that can be used everywhere debit MasterCard is accepted. Riders also can pay with any MasterCard PayPass or contactless payment card.
The program was first announced in 2011, when the CTA, which had been planning a move to an open fare collection system for several years, awarded a $454 million contract to San Diego-based Cubic Transportation Systems. The deal grew even larger in August of 2012, when Cubic’s contract was upped by $50 million to expand the service to suburban Chicago’s Pace bus system. CTA says the Ventra system will save the agency $50 million over the next 10 years.
In Hong Kong, transit payment provider Octopus Group said it’s planning to enable NFC smartphone payments by the fourth quarter of this year. The company’s Octopus Card is the dominant contactless card payment system for Hong Kong’s transit network, but the company said it’s facing increasing competition from banks that have developed their own mobile NFC payment products. Hong Kong’s central bank also has thrown its support behind the development of mobile payment services.