Monday, April 8, 2013

A Tempest in a Teapot

I must admit, I was wrong. Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Some time ago I went on a rant about how SEPTA and PATCO need to coordinate fare media. They do; so do SEPTA and DART, SEPTA and NJT, and NJT and PATCO (I do not think any NJT route goes over the Delaware Memorial Bridge).

My mistake is that I had assumed--based on very old information--that the Freedom Card had been built on an open platform. It is not. It is built on the same closed-source platform e.g. London's Oyster Card is.

By contrast, SEPTA's NPT is to be built on an open platform--and this, incidentally, will make it first in the nation to be--and so requiring it to be compatible with a closed system is significantly more technically difficult than the examples I've given previously, both here and on Michael Noda's blog. This does not absolve SEPTA completely--you can totally run (closed source) Microsoft Office on (open source) Linux running Wine, for example--but there's a second development that makes me wonder.

PATCO is jonesing about replacing its existing Freedom Card architecture. That makes me wonder: 1. Freedom Card, as it is, is all of five years old, hardly enough time to become technically obsolete (unless, you know, you're Microsoft or Nintendo), and 2. a fairly straight port of Oyster Card technology--you know, the same Oyster Card that is the model of how to do (nearly) everything right. But the news that PATCO is jonesing to replace Freedom, coming out as it has in the thick of NPT, strongly suggests to me that that move isn't meant so much to replace Freedom per se as it is migrating the Freedom architecture onto something compatible with NPT's open-platform architecture.

I'll repeat: the mistake I made was assuming Freedom was open-platform. If it was, that would put compatibility onus on SEPTA. But it isn't, and since SEPTA's NPT is to be open, that puts compatibility onus on PATCO. And from what I've heard, PATCO is being proactive about it. Thankfully.

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