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Fare Collection

The Role of a Farebox in Modern Fare Collection Systems

Public transit systems rely on efficient fare collection methods to operate effectively. A good fare collection system ensures that buses run on-time, that revenue is secure, and that transit is an accessible and attractive option for everyone. This whitepaper explores the crucial role fareboxes play in the overall fare collection system.


What is a Farebox?

Defining a farebox isn’t always straightforward, so this is a good place to begin. For the purposes of this article, we’ll view a farebox as a device that collects cash (bills and coins) from passengers when they board the bus. Fareboxes all typically have a secure deposit slot and a secure vault to store the money while it is in transit. There are two main kinds of fareboxes in popular use – validating and non-validating

This photo is from one of our customers and shows a farebox installed in a standard low-floor bus (shown with a green border). The device highlighted in blue is TransitFare’s TF2 Validator, which a bus validator for contactless payments with RFID cards and barcode tickets.

A farebox is one piece of a fare collection system


Validating vs Non-Validating Fareboxes

Fareboxes generally fall into two categories: validating and non-validating. Validating fareboxes count and recognize the bills and coins deposited and display the total amount to the passenger and operator. Non-validating fareboxes simply collect bills and coins into a secure vault without counting the amount.

Mechanics of a Validating Farebox

A validating farebox has a bill and coin counter that counts the money deposited by the rider. The collected bills and coins are kept in a vault. They require regular scheduled maintenance.

Validating farebox parts

Non-Validating Farebox

A non-validating farebox is mechanically simple. Any bills and coins deposited by the rider are dropped into a secure vault. In some cases, the operator might visually inspect the fare amount. 


The Modern Role of a Farebox

Digital payment technology has advanced significantly, particularly in public transit. Recent technology advances means that more transit agencies are accepting contactless payments as an alternative to cash for fare payments. 

TransitFare’s customers are regularly able to collection 70% to 90% fares as contactless payments. However, this still leaves 10% to 30% of fares that need to be collected as bills and coins. This is the modern role of a farebox – to provide a safe and secure way to collect a fraction of total fare revenue, but no longer responsible for collecting the majority of fares on the bus.

Sourcing the Right Farebox

A modern set of guidelines helps to source the right kind of farebox for a modern transit system. The decision factors decision to purchase a specific type of farebox heavily depends on the volume of cash and coins a transit system collects and stores. Systems collecting substantial amounts typically benefit from validating fareboxes despite higher costs, due to better security and accounting capabilities.

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

The total cost of ownership should include the purchase cost, installation cost, ongoing maintenance expenses, repair costs, and even the cost of training staff to maintain the fareboxes. Validating fareboxes have a higher TCO than non-validating fareboxes. 

  • Initial purchase and installation costs.
  • Lifetime maintenance, repairs, and staff training costs.

Cash Value Being Secured

Determine the typical amount of cash that will be in transit on a bus inside the farebox vault. If the amount of cash is high, a more advanced validating farebox might be more suitable. However, if the amount of cash is low, for example, due to a successful automated fare collection system, then a simple low-cost non-validating farebox is ideal. 

Estimated Farebox Loss vs. Total Cost of Ownership

Minimizing fare loss is always a priority, but the estimated loss needs to be compared with the total cost of ownership. Estimating potential cash and coin losses is crucial in decision-making. To do this, calculate the estimated annual loss, and compare it to the total cost of ownership of the farebox to determine if a validating or non-validating farebox is more ideal. 

Farebox As part of the Broader Fare Collection Strategy

In addition to the total cost of ownership, it is important to look at the broader fare collection strategy. Because if contactless payment and/or mobile ticketing technologies are also part of the strategy, your farebox requirements will be different.

Contactless Payments

When adding a contactless payment system as part of the overall fare collection strategy, factor in the percentage of bus fares that will be bills and coins, versus electronic. For example, many of TransitFare’s customers regularly collect 70% to 90% of fares electronically – meaning that only a small portion of fares end up in the farebox vault. For example, assume an average bus validates $1,000 of fares on average daily. This could men that only $100 to $300 ends up in the vault as bills and coins. The rest is validated with contactless payments.

The Benefit of a Separate Contactless Fare Validator

Having a bus validator that is separate from the farebox presents several strategic advantages for public transit systems, particularly in terms of streamlining passenger flow and increasing efficiency. 

By deploying a separate validator for contactless payments, transit operators can effectively create a “fast lane” for fare validation, significantly reducing boarding times for passengers who use contactless methods such as RFID cards, RFID wearables, and QR code tickets. These riders can just ride with a quick tap or scan. 

Meanwhile, the traditional farebox can serve as a “slow lane” for passengers paying with bills and coins and who may need more time to sort their fare. This separation not only speeds up the boarding process for tech-savvy riders but also reduces pressure and wait times at the farebox, improving the overall efficiency of boarding and reducing bus dwell times at stops.

Detailed Reporting

TransitFare’s driver console can be configured with programmable buttons that drivers can press to log when cash payments are made. These payment records appear in TransitFare Cloud’s cash audit and bus sales reports.

We can Help

TransitFare specializes in helping transit agencies create or upgrade their fare collection systems to meet modern  rider demands. Whether you’re looking to deploy a basic farebox, a new automated fare collection system or integrate contactless payment capabilities into your existing system, we are experts and can help you every step of the way. Contact us to help you make the right choice for your fare collection needs.

Additional Reading

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