Smart cards will take a toll in Florida city

Smart cards will take a toll in Florida city

'This system will help our back-office functions by reducing the amount of paperwork and the processing of cash that is done,' said Sam Vennero, chief of the Orlando Parking Bureau. 'At the same time, the customer will get better and quicker services.'

Three Orlando departments will pilot the use of cards to handle fares and provide convenience to residents

Ever had to search the grungy recesses of your car for a linty, sticky quarter to fill a parking meter, or found yourself at a tollbooth without enough money to pay the toll? Orlando, Fla., residents soon will not have to worry about ending up in such situations.

The three city departments that manage parking meters, highway tolls and bus fares will pilot the use of smart cards to pay the levies.

With matching funds from the Federal Transit Administration, Orlando has awarded a contract to Touch Technology International Inc. of Phoenix and PBS&J of Miami to provide and manage the electronic payment system that will run under Microsoft Windows NT.

The $4.6 million project, scheduled to start this winter, will let users pay for the services with touch-and-go smart cards. The cards will work with the city's current toll system and use software applications called E-Cash and Pass to direct funds to the correct accounts.

'The primary objectives of this program are to become more efficient in handling fares, which translates into saving money, and give our customers added convenience,' said Ann Joslin, project manager for LYNX, the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority. The authority also put TV monitors on some buses to give riders news, weather and other information.

Orlando's fleet of 230 buses is being retrofitted with smart-card-ready fare boxes, and city parking meters have been using smart-card technology since 1999. The new system will use the installed meters, said Sam Vennero, chief of the Orlando Parking Bureau. The bureau has sold 1,400 smart cards over the past two years, and Vennero said he expects that number to increase because of the new system.

More than one agency can issue cards, and more than one processing system can handle the transactions. A clearinghouse will process the transactions, said Terry Davis, senior vice president and chief software architect of Touch Technology.

The plan is to test the technology on some buses, toll booths and parking meters and later expand it citywide and possibly to the private sector as well, Joslin said. City officials have considered allowing users to add money to their smart cards through the Internet or through automated teller machines.

'This system will help our back-office functions by reducing the amount of paperwork and the processing of cash,' Vennero said. 'At the same time, the customer will get better and quicker services.'

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