Using Apple Pay Suica • PASMO Commuter Passes when transfer protocol is in effect

When the going gets tough, station staff roll out the transfer protocol information board at station entrances

The Yamanote Line was not running this morning due to a signal malfunction. Yet everything looked like any normal Monday morning commute so I had no idea when I entered Asagaya station. Then I heard the announcement on the platform. The train came, I got on. Again everything looked normal, nothing out of place, no unusual crowding. Everybody seemed to know what they were doing. As the train pulled into Nakano station the train conductor gave a helpful rundown of all the train transfer options with transfer protocol in effect closing with, “Please use smartphone and tablet train information apps to find your best route.” All the major transit apps, Apple Maps, Google Maps, et al., include real time transit stoppages and re-route automatically, but don’t always give you the best train route for the situation.

I got off and took a break in Beck’s Coffee Shop, planning a new commute route while enjoying morning coffee. It can be fun to take a leisurely commute knowing I can download a delay certificate, take any route I want, get to the office late and still get paid for the whole day. Usually I take the Yamanote Line from Shinjuku to Gotanda but decided to go via the longest route: ride to Tokyo station, change to the Keihin Tohoku line, ride to Kamata, transfer to Tokyu Ikegami line and get off at my usual station. Here are a few simple pointers for using a Apple Pay Suica or PASMO commuter pass when transfer protocol is in effect.

What is it?
The Tokyo train region transfer protocol is a visual inspection re-rerouting procedure that goes into effect for commuter pass and paper ticket holders when a train line stoppage prevents them from reaching their destination via the normal route. All the connecting train line companies cooperate and allow commuter pass or paper ticket holders to travel by train and go through gates for free with a quick glance of their commuter pass or paper ticket. Regular Transit IC cards, including non-commuter pass Apple Pay Suica and PASMO, cannot be used with transfer protocol and pay regular fare at the gate.

How to use it
It’s very simple: do not tap in or out at transit gates, go through the manned gate and show your Apple Pay Suica or PASMO commuter pass to the station staff. This is easy to do with iPhone Wallet as the Suica • PASMO card displays the commute route and validity dates. Apple Watch is a little tricky: bring up the card via the Apple Pay double click, tap the card and slightly scroll down so that the commute route shows.

You are still able to use transfer protocol if you have tapped in, just make sure that you do not tap out. Once you tap out, the fare is deducted and there is no refund. Go to the manned station gate, show your commuter pass and go through. At your final destination tell the station staff you tapped in and they will reset your Suica or PASMO. If you do not do this you will get a gate error when you tap in on your next transit.

As for today’s ride without the Yamanote Line? It was fun taking completely different, and much more expensive, commute route. Thanks to transfer protocol, my commuter pass covered it all. I got to my final station with so much time to spare I didn’t even bother downloading a delay certificate.