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Findings of Institutional Requirements for Interoperable Smartcard Fare Payment Systems 25 2.3.3 Convenience Based on the experience in San Francisco and Washington, DC, patrons in other regions will most likely embrace a regional interoperable system once they understand the increased con- venience this type of fare payment system offers. The challenges of the new technology and process are minimized once riders gain an increased understanding of its use. Other changes, such as a business decision to allow the balance on a card to go negative in either value or rides, will, at the beginning, contribute to cardholder confusion. 2.3.4 Strategies for Overcoming Patron Impacts Global experience indicates that transit riders quickly see the benefits of switching from cash or magnetic and paper fare media to contactless smartcards. However, to make the transition less disruptive, transit systems must either develop and implement a comprehensive patron educa- tion and marketing program to ease the transition to the interoperable smartcard system or adopt a slow, gradual rollout approach similar to SmarTrip. A comprehensive education program is ongoing and provides accurate information. Examples of education materials used include Fact sheets, bulletins, newsletters, and websites; Public meetings hosted by the transit agencies; Presentations to targeted groups; Advertisements on vehicles, radio, or television; Direct mailings; Local publications; Clear and simple instructions placed on the card; and Supplemental staff at high-traffic locations as customer service ambassadors. Transit systems may consider offering cardholder benefits, such as loyalty programs, to increase smartcard penetration. A loyalty program is a promotional program in which benefits, such as discounted fares, are credited to a cardholder's card for using the system. Interoperable systems can significantly increase card use by restricting the purchase of certain fare products only to the smartcard. For example, one of the agencies in San Francisco's TransLink plans to restrict its monthly pass purchases to TransLink cardholders only. This concept can also be applied to the issuance and acceptance of transfers. 2.4 Equipment Design Issues One of the primary challenges posed by existing equipment designs is to find a way to procure interoperable equipment from multiple vendors in a competitive manner. The goal is to build a fare payment system that conforms to open standards or specifications, uses existing infrastruc- ture, offers flexibility to scale, and adds functionality as needs develop. Thus, open standards and specifications will enable the participating agencies to add equipment and functionality com- petitively and use the open platform to establish new opportunities for partnerships with non- transit applications. A secondary challenge for the member agencies is to determine the degree to which legacy sys- tems are either upgraded and integrated into the new interoperable fare payment system or replaced with new equipment. The cost to replace may be less than the cost of upgrading and integrating legacy systems. The age of legacy systems and their incumbent technology are key factors in the cost of upgrade. Each agency's legacy equipment will need to be reviewed to determine whether it can