On the Buses

ERG’s Melbourne Project was Automated Fare Collection system for the Ministry of Transport. It was reported to be the world’s first multi modal system enabling patrons to utilise the same ticket for bus, rail and tram travel. ERG employed over 100 staff on the project. The architecture was a large distributed computing environment ranging from vehicle based fare devices through Unix depot computers to central mainframes.

When I commenced, construction had just begun at the individual device level and overall architectural issues were a major concern. An intensive period of backfilling industry standard processes, strategically planning the development of the three main sub systems in parallel, resolving critical system integration issues and enabling full end to end testing resulted in all three sub-systems being delivered on schedule. From August 95 through to February 96 some 24 Formal Deliverables were all delivered on schedule.

AES constructed all vehicle and platform device software. It was written in embedded C, running on OS/9 and utilized bisynchronous Communications. AES also developed the Unix based Depot Computers which acted as data concentrators in collection, and gateways for distribution of fare, route and table data throughout the network. Ticket Vending Machines were developed with EFTPOS, Contactless Smart Cards and Magnetic Striped Tickets.
The Software Group comprised 70 people with 8 Team Leaders reporting to Lawrie at peak development.

Overall the system we were constructing was structured in a hierarchy of “levels” which meshed in with each other to capture a fare from a commuter, pass it up to the clearing house and distribute funds to the service providers. The Card Issuer and the Central Body would at the same time, be transmitting their data downward and imposing Issuer rules on the governance of all fare collection, validation and transmittal processes.

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