Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility

Research Report – Effortless Passenger Identification System

A recently completed SURTC study evaluated the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to track transit passengers. The technology is referred to as the Effortless Passenger Identification System (EPIS).

The RFID tags used by EPIS can be read at longer distances than the contactless or proximity cards currently used in the industry. This characteristic allows passengers to be identified and counted as they board and alight vehicles without requiring them to physically present their card within a short distance of an on-vehicle reader.

This study was funded by the Transportation Research Board's Transit Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis (IDEA) program and led by SURTC researcher Del Peterson. Peterson evaluated the technical, operational, and economic feasibility of using medium-range RFID technology to track transit passengers.

The technology successfully recorded riders boarding the bus almost 90 percent of the time during field testing conducted at North Dakota State University (NDSU). Controlled testing results indicated that the reader received a valid signal from the RFID card if it was in plain sight and there was no interference present.

Consumer acceptance surveys of college students, people with physical and mental disabilities, and parents of school-aged children yielded positive findings regarding the merit of this technology. The main obstacles are the issues of multiple reads occurring when riders get too close to the antennas, and the inability to read the cards successfully when interference is present.

A cost-benefit analysis showed that with proper ridership numbers, EPIS technology can provide an economic benefit to transit agencies.

A link to the final report is provided below. For more details, contact Del Peterson at

TRB’s Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis (IDEA) Final Report for Transit IDEA Project 70: Effortless Passenger Identification System (pdf)

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