Transport for NSW has begun trialling radio frequency identification (RFID) tags as a replacement for student Opal cards on selected school buses in Sydney's southwest.
The tags – which attach to a school bag – remove the need for students to physically tap on and off on an Opal card reader, reducing passenger loading and bus dwell times.
They work like an e-toll tag, with the Opal student bag tag automatically detected by an RFID reader when a student boards or alights from a bus.
Around 800 students from Magdalene Catholic College in the suburb of Smeaton Grange will trial the tags on selected local buses operated by Busabout as part of the first Sydney-based trial.
The trial, which will run the entire school year, builds on a proof-of-concept with more than 100 students in the Illawarra region in 2020.
The six-month PoC, which concluded in September, was conducted in partnership with Kiama Coaches.
With a range of up to two metres, the Opal student bag tags have already been shown to lead to improved faster loading time on buses and, ultimately, shorter journey times.
The tags have also resulted in more accurate passenger count data for TfNSW, as students sometimes forget to tap on and off.
According to TfNSW’s latest annual report, the trials will inform wider application of the tags in regional communities.
RFID tags are the latest in a series of advancements by TfNSW in the transport payments space since the rollout of contactless transport payments technology was completed in September 2019.
Last month, TfNSW began a 12-month trial of digital Opal cards using the Apple Pay and Samsung Pay digital wallets.
The department was forced to suspend sign-ups just two weeks in after the 10,000 target allocation was reached.