Lessons from the use of Smartcards for public transport payment in Finland

Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - europe


Many public transport operators are currently considering introducing smartcard based payment systems to improve the efficiency of fare collection and other services and to provide greater flexibility in management and marketing. Moreover, there is also increasing interest being shown by city authorities throughout Europe and beyond in using multifunction smartcards as a means of improving the efficiency of delivery of a range of municipal services, including but not limited to, public transport payment. However, although there is much discussion of such initiatives, practical experience is still rather limited and as a result many uncertainties remain. These uncertainties revolve around several key issues including (i) the choice of appropriate smartcard technology, particularly in an environment of rapidly developing technical capabilities and evolving standards, (ii) the establishment of appropriate institutional, administrative and legal arrangements to make possible the operation of complex multifunction and multi-agency systems and to deal effectively with the issues of security, privacy, clearing and enforcement of financial transactions, (iii) the reaction of users to such systems, both in terms of attitudes and acceptance and in terms of impacts on behaviour and (iv) the tree effects of the systems on the operational performance and competitiveness of public transport services. One of the few countries to have substantial practical experience of the use of smartcards in public transport applications is Finland, where the design and implementation of national smartcard systems has been underway since 1993. The objective of this paper is to report the results of a recent study that evaluated the implementation and operation of smartcard systems in five Finnish cities. The study focused on the institutional, operational, behavioural and economic impacts of the systems and formed part of the ADEPT II project and was supported by the European Commission. The objective of the ADEPT II project was to develop, test and evaluate interoperable, open payment systems for both private cars and public transport in both urban and inter-urban contexts. The project involved the development and demonstration of various transponder and smartcard systems in three sites in Europe - Thessaloniki in Greece, Gothenburg in Sweden and in several locations in Finland. In this paper we concentrate on the findings from Finland. The paper comprises a number of sections. In the next section, we outline the background of the Finnish systems that were studied in the ADEPT 1I project and compare the different institutional and technical approaches that were adopted. In the third section we summarise the results of a series of before and after studies that were carried out in each city to establish the true impacts of the systems on the operational performance of services and on passengers' attitudes and behaviour. In the final section we attempt to draw out some general lessons concerning the factors affecting the success of smartcard applications.


Permission to publish abstract given by AET.