Many rail, bus, and other transit systems are making the switch to smart cards for quick and easy fare payments. But how convenient is it if you have to carry a different card for each form of transportation, or for mass transit systems in different cities? To solve this problem, a number of cities are exploring ways to develop programs which use a single card for multiple transit systems, even those operating in different regions.

In Pennsylvania, Jersey, and throughout the NortIheast, for instance, public transit authorities are moving from tokens and tickets to contactless cards. One idea is to develop a smart card which is compatible with SEPTA, PATCO and NJ Transit. This mutually acceptable card would serve as a handy E-ZPass for transit riders. But in order for the program to come to fruition, each of the transit systems must agree to move forward with standardized cards. The technology is certainly there. Now it’s up to the transit agencies to determine how important cross-system compatibility is to its riders.