Effortless Passenger Identification System


Del Peterson

Document Type


Publication Date


Subject Area

place - universities, place - north america, ridership - young people, technology - intelligent transport systems, economics - appraisal/evaluation


Feasibility analysis, Mentally handicapped persons, Physically handicapped persons, Public transit, Radio frequency identification, Students;, Transit riders


The objective of this Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis (IDEA) project was to evaluate the technical, operational, and economic feasibility of using medium-range radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to track transit passengers. The stages of the Effortless Passenger Identification System (EPIS) project included field testing, controlled testing, consumer acceptance, and feasibility analysis. The RFID tags used by an EPIS system can be read at longer distances than contactless or proximity cards currently used in the industry. This characteristic allows passengers to be identified and counted as they board and alight vehicles without requiring them to physically present their card within a short distance of an on-vehicle reader. The medium-range reader used during field testing at a university successfully recorded riders boarding the bus almost 90% of the time. Controlled testing results indicated that the reader received a valid signal from the RFID card if it was in plain sight and there was no interference present. The consumer acceptance task evaluated the RFID perceptions of college students, people with physical and mental disabilities, and parents of school-aged children. Overall, all three groups believed that RFID technology has merit with respect to bus transportation. The main obstacles for successful implementation are the issues of multiple reads occurring when riders get too close to the antennas, and the current inability of the system to read cards successfully through clothing and when interference is present from other items such as cell phones. The economic feasibility of EPIS was evaluated by conducting a thorough cost-benefit analysis simulating different agency and ridership scenarios. The analysis showed that with proper ridership numbers and varying percentages of non-student riders, EPIS technology can provide an economic benefit to transit agencies.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Transportation Research Board, Washington, copyright remains with them.