Smart oranges

The Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority, LYNX and the city of Orlando are joining forces to test an electronic-payment system with the forced-acronym name of ORANGES (Orlando Regional Alliance for the Next Generation Electronic payment System). Beginning in July, and continuing for one year, the agencies will spend $2.3 million in federally matched funds testing a new way to pay for toll roads, buses and parking.

ORANGES will arrive in the form of a "smart card," a driver's-license sized card containing an antenna. Swiping the card near an ORANGES collection machine will automatically deduct funds from a pre-paid account dubbed an "e-purse."

The test run will include only a few payment locations, and about 1,000 volunteers, whose activities will be monitored while the program is in its early developmental stages. State Road 408 will have ORANGES at the Holland East toll plaza, the busiest on the expressway system; LYNX will test the smart cards on two bus routes, 13 and 15; and the city will throw three parking garages (at Central Boulevard, Church Street Market, and the downtown Orlando library locations) into the mix.

Four other areas (Washington, D.C., New Jersey, Seattle and Anaheim, Calif.), competed for the FTA's dollars, but Orlando was chosen as the best location for the developmental study. This is the first time in the United States that an electronic-payment system has brought together diversified transportation agencies under the same financial umbrella.

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