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.

October 23~24 Yamanote Line Inner Circle service suspension detour transfer guidance (obsolete)

Note: this post is marked obsolete as construction was completed and remains only for reference

Apple Pay Suica or PASMO commuter pass users who need to detour during October 23~24 must not use automatic gates, use the station agent window reader instead

The JR Shibuya station platform and track realignment of the Yamanote Inner Circle line takes place October 23~24 (unless bad weather postpones it to November 20~21). All Yamanote Inner Circle train service between Ikebukuro and Osaki stations is suspended all day, both days.

JR East posted multilingual information in English, Chinese, Korean (deleted after the construction was finished) that includes detour transfer guidance to non-JR lines during the line closure. The English wording is fuzzy because the exact distinctions between mag-strip commuter passes, Suica commuter passes and Suica IC transit fare are not always clear to the reader. It’s also important to understand detour transfer rules.

Detour Transfers
Tokyo area transit operators have special detour transfer rules to deal with transit situations when there is an unexpected stoppage and in-transit users suddenly need to use a different transit route from the normal one to reach their destination. Detour transfers have one rule for Suica or PASMO commuter passes, both mobile and plastic: do not use automatic transit gates during the detour portion of the route, go to a station agent window gate instead and use the reader. The station agent checks the validity of the commuter pass and waves you through, the NFC equivalent of visually inspecting printed tickets and passes. Regular non-commuter pass Suica, PASMO and other transit cards are outside of detour transfer rules and are charged normal IC transit fare.

For example, my normal commute route from JR Asagaya to Tokyu Ikegami has a line transfer point at Gotanda. A Gotanda transfer isn’t possible during the service suspension. Instead I plan to transfer at Shibuya to the Tokyu Toyoko line, ride to Jiyugaoka > transfer to Tokyu Ooimachi line > transfer at Hatanodai to Tokyu Ikegami line > exit at Ikegami.

In this case I make 2 automatic gate reads and 2 station agent window reads with my Apple Watch Suica commute pass: the JR Asagaya start point (automatic gate as always), leaving JR Shibuya (JR station agent window reader) transfer to Tokyu Toyoko line (Tokyu station agent window reader), Tokyu Ikegami (automatic gate as always).

This poster at the Tokyu Ikegami station clearly shows the ‘do not use automatic gates during detour rule,’ and which kinds of tickets can be used for detour transfers: Suica and PASMO commuter passes and all mag strip passes and tickets. For Apple Pay Suica and PASMO commuter passes, always use the station agent window reader on the detour portion and you’ll reach your final destination even with a long detour.