Sorry, Charlie. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority awarded a multi-year contract for an automated fare collection system to replace the current CharlieCard.
With AFC2, as the MBTA is calling the system, customers will be able to tap and board at any vehicle door with a fare card, smart phone, or contactless credit card. Vehicles will no longer accept cash on board; cash customers will have to purchase a ticket at a vending machine before boarding. The new system will include validators at all doors of buses and light-rail vehicles and on commuter rail platforms.
Cubic Transportation Systems will design, implement, and maintain the system, and the $723 million contract includes operating costs through 2031. Cubic and its partner John Laing will arrange the funding for the new fare payment system in a public-private partnership with the MBTA.
“As the first public-private partnership for the MBTA, this method will allow a major customer service improvement to advance in a cost-effective manner,” said MassDOT secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack in a statement. “The contract structure for AFC 2.0 is a crucial component of this project because it serves as a method to deliver the project, to finance it, and to free up our own internal resources to focus on other critical MBTA efforts.”
Some elements of the new system will be introduced late in 2019 with full implementation planned for mid-2020. The current system will be retired in 2021.
And while the iconic CharlieCard will be phased out, MBTA CEO Luis Ramirez assured riders that the new system will continue to use the Charlie brand.
Photo credit: Susan Mara Bregman