How RFID is Used in Public Transportation

If RFID technology is becoming more and more integral to managing a fleet of commercial vehicles, from delivery fans through tractor trailers, what about for public transportation? Just like private companies want more data on their drivers, routes, and vehicles, cities, towns, and regions use similar information to make their mass transit systems run more efficiently.

While RFID technology is currently implemented more widely across public transportation systems in Europe, it’s gradually gaining more ground in the U.S. through the following methods:


It used to be that you would have to deposit a token or a coin or cash fare. Then, systems started adopting swipe cards. Now, the latest trend to speed things up is called “contact-less ticketing,” and that’s where RFID comes in.

Through this method, users purchase a ticket or pass embedded with an RFID chip and, then, pass by a scanner – no swiping required. Not only does it speed up trip times for many passengers, but it further eliminates ticket fraud.

Transit Data

In the U.S., RFID technology currently supplements GPS bus tracking systems. Together, these facets provide data – to those monitoring the system’s efficiency and to passengers – about when a train, bus, or trolley gets within a certain distance of a particular stop. This data then:

  • Lets transit operators and managers know how efficiently a particular route or group of routes is operating. If trains are always late, or if a bus arrives early and has to wait, the line may need to be planned differently.
  • Is used to post delays online, so users can plan their journey better, avoiding routes that are behind.
  • Tells passengers waiting at a stop when the bus or train will arrive – on time or a few minutes late.
  • Can be used to provide blind and visually impaired passengers with more information at bus stops, including which routes are there, where it’s going, and if the bus is delayed.

Authenticating Vehicles

For all buses operating within a municipality, RFID data can offer insight into their operation. With a chip and scanner monitoring the vehicle’s performance, it assists with:

  • Showing how frequently a vehicle has to fill up.
  • Which fuel the vehicle uses.
  • How its engine performs, including idle times and the miles it travels daily or over a particular period.

Think your local public transit system might benefit from RFID technology? If you feel that key pieces of data are missing, it may be time to install a set of chips and readers. To find out about how this works and how it’s implemented, contact our team today.