CollegePass: a complication or godsend?
The new passes bring RTD to the digital age
Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 03:02
Many students and faculty members rely on the partnership between RTD and Auraria to get to school or work. But this relationship has more to it than meets the eye.
RTD determines the cost to Auraria based upon rider usage in previous semesters, which, in turn, affects the fee that students pay as a part of their tuition.
The old method of tracking usage was by issuing a decal sticker to each student’s ID card.
“The stickers were hard to manage and a student could continue to use the pass throughout the semester even if they dropped classes,” said Daria Serna, Public Relations Manager for RTD.
And more stickers issued than enrolled students means a higher usage count by RTD, and therefore higher tuition fees.
RTD has attacked the problem head-on with the implementation of a new system: the SmartCard.
This updated system, which comes in the form of CollegePass for students and EcoPass for faculty, officially went live on Feb. 1 after several months of preliminary roll out.
EcoPass is available for businesses now, too. The mass consumer will receive SmartCard tech this Fall in the form of MyRide.
The SmartCard system is electronic. Passes can be modified or deactivated remotely by RTD at any time, making the new system less susceptible to fraud.
But preventing student manipulation is not the sole purpose behind a transition in rider usage tracking.
“The SmartCard uses the Mifare system. There are over 1 billion Mifare cards in use around the world. It is the most common technology used for transit globally,” said Gary Googins, IT Program Manager for SmartCard.
The cards are good for six years after their first swipe, meaning that students’ back-to-school checklist can shed the need for RTD renewal lines.
As it turns out, though, the SmartCard system may not be perfect.
“It’s so weird that now I need a student card and an RTD card. It was easier before,” said CCD freshman Minh Tran.
RTD is hoping to collaborate with Auraria Higher Education Center on developing a solution.
“It may take as long as a year, but we’re working with AHEC to develop a one-card solution. Isolating each computer chip within the card based upon its use is a complicated process, and it has to have involvement from all departments wanting to use a portion of card space,” said Googins.
Another problem is the act of scanning the card itself. “Sometimes the machines won’t recognize my card. I scan it, but don’t hear the noise,” said Tran.
“What we’ve seen in terms of troubleshooting is that most students just do it wrong. You have to hold it up vertically. Don’t try to swipe it,” said Googins.
And this advice is going to become more important soon. On or around Feb. 23, RTD enforcement will begin scanning cards to make sure that they were tapped.
As more and more things enter the digital age, RTD is no exception. The new SmartCard system promises to be more efficient and easier to use for students—students that follow the rules and remember how to swipe, that is.