The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) announced today the extension of its year-long “Ride Free Central Falls” pilot program through December 31, 2023. The program, which launched in March 2022, is testing the effectiveness of using geofencing technology to promote the use of public transportation.
Under the pilot program, RIPTA created a geofence – or virtual boundary – around the City of Central Falls using software. The pilot offers free fares for only those trips starting in Central Falls and at the Pawtucket-Central Falls Transit Center. Trips originating outside of Central Falls or the new intermodal center are required to pay the full fare.
The geofencing software communicates with RIPTA’s Wave smart fare technology and automatically knows to not charge a fare when a passenger is boarding with a Wave smart card or mobile app in Central Falls or at the new Pawtucket-Central Falls Transit Center.
Geofencing uses the GPS (Global Positioning System), cellular networks and other technologies to define a specific area. It is rapidly becoming a powerful marketing tool worldwide, allowing companies to zero in on their target audiences and also to specify where people are when advertisements show up on computers or mobile devices.
For RIPTA, geofencing is of interest because it could open the door to targeted marketing partnerships that will increase use of public transportation. The technology could allow entities such as universities, business associations, or social service agencies to sponsor ridership in a specific, limited area. For instance, a city’s business district might decide to partner with RIPTA to offer free transportation within a certain area to make a retail area more accessible to customers.
RIPTA was one of 25 recipients nationwide to receive grant funding under the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) “Accelerating Innovative Mobility” (AIM) initiative. The goal of the federal initiative is to support the use of state-of-the-art technologies to improve transit services and transportation options for the public.
RIPTA received $244,000 to partner with the City of Central Falls to test the effectiveness of using geofencing technology to help create targeted promotional partnerships that would benefit transit and the public. The City of Central Falls is contributing approximately $50,000 to the project and RIPTA is contributing $11,000. The project funding includes covering lost fare revenue for RIPTA.
RIPTA is able to extend “Ride Free Central Falls” through December 31, 2023, because it has not yet exhausted the original pilot program funding. RIPTA is monitoring the effectiveness of the pilot program. More information is available at RIPTA.com/CentralFalls.
Launched in September 2020, RIPTA’s Wave smart fare technology gives passengers the option of paying their bus fare with either a reloadable smart card or a new mobile app and is already being used by thousands of RIPTA customers. More details, including an instructional video, are available at RIPTA.com/wave.