Reuters / Danish Siddiqui

Adoption of similar mass transit technology in the U.S. may not be far off.

Every second counts when you're racing to catch a bus or a train, and stopping to buy or replenish a fare card is often enough of a delay to miss the next ride. That's no longer a worry on the Mumbai Metro. The transit agency has partnered with the State Bank of India to offer a combined credit/debit-fare card that you can tap at the turnstile and be on your way.

The new card contains a separate fare account that automatically reloads when a turnstile reader registers a low balance. The Times of India has those details:

The Combo Card will have an in-built functionality of auto reload, wherein as soon as the AFC system reads that the balance in the card is equal to or less than Rs 50/- [rupees], it will reload the Card automatically with Rs 200/-. The amount reloaded will be deducted from the bank account linked with the Debit Card at the back end.

While not quite the "first-of-its-kind facility" that Mumbai Metro claims, the new bank card-fare card integration represents the clear next step for transit ticket technology. Some existing smart cards allow riders to spend their fare balance at participating retailers or food stands (Japan's versatile Pasmo card comes to mind). But a true combined card isn't limited to certain vendors—erasing the distinction between transit and the rest of your daily life.

Mac Brown of GlobeSherpa, a mobile ticketing technology company, says he can't think of a fare card designed with quite the flexibility of Mumbai's new combo. But he says the relatively new Ventra smart card system in Chicago comes "very, very close." (GlobeSherpa is building the mobile Ventra app, which it expects to release this spring or summer.) Brown also believes other U.S. metros should expect similar technology in the near future.

"We're seeing that more and more," he tells CityLab. "The ability to put all these pieces together."

The Ventra card, which launched system-wide in mid-2014 at Chicago Transit Authority and Pace rail and bus stations around the city, also offers tap-and-go service. Ventra card holders can add debit value to the card for use as fares or at participating retailers. Riders can also use their existing (e.g. non-Ventra) credit or debit card and have a fare deducted from their bank account right at the turnstile—but only if the card is equipped with contactless technology.

The use of bank cards at transit turnstiles should get noticeably easier this fall. The credit card industry has set an October 2015 deadline for U.S. banks and merchants to adopt the so-called EMV (Europay, MasterCard, and Visa) card standard, lest they remain liable for fraud. A shift to chip-based EMV cards marks a huge security upgrade from current magnetic-strip technology and could further encourage U.S. transit agencies to blur the lines between bank and fare cards.

"That's going to make a big difference in the way the cards function," says Brown. "You'll be able to tap that card on the turnstile and go."

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