News Release: TriMet making major strides toward implementing eFare system beginning in 2015

Posted in TriMet News

Convenient, easy electronic fare payments with daily/monthly fare caps

TriMet today outlined the steps toward implementing an electronic fare system, beginning on a limited basis as early as September 2015 with a full launch in 2017. Electronic fares, or eFares, will allow our riders to conveniently and quickly pay their fare by tapping a contactless payment device against an electronic reader – no exact change, no paper ticket.

An account-based eFare system

Unlike some other transit agencies, TriMet is looking at an account based eFare system. As TriMet Director of Revenue Operations Chris Tucker explained to the TriMet Board of Directors this morning, “It is simple to understand, easy to use.”

Fares could be purchased in a number of ways:

  1. With a transit-only smart card
  2. Using a bank-issued credit or debit card equipped with a microchip
  3. Via a smartphone equipped with Near Field Communications

All you would have to do is simply tap one of these payment options against an electronic reader or validator near the fare box on a bus or on a MAX platform.

For those who don’t have a bank account, eFare cards similar to gift cards could be purchased and money loaded onto them. For this, we’re looking at building a robust retail network where the cards could be purchased at convenience stores, grocery stores and other retail outlets. This will improve access for everyone, especially low-income riders.

Daily and monthly caps = free rides

Another big benefit for frequent transit users and low income riders – daily and monthly caps on fares paid. Currently a Day Pass costs $5 for an adult and is good for as many trips as you take in a given day. The eFare system we’re considering would also have a daily maximum cost and once you hit that, you won’t pay for additional trips. The same is true on a monthly basis. For instance, the current Adult 30-Day pass is $100. With an eFare system, you don’t have that up-front cost, but once you reach $100 in a 30-day period, that’s it. The remainder of rides in that 30-day period will be at no charge. For someone who rides every day, after day 20 you’re riding for free.

Making riding easier – first mobile ticketing and next eFares

“eFare is a natural progression for the agency and will be yet another way TriMet is making riding easier for our customers,” said Tucker.  Soon TriMet will be the first U.S. multimodal transit system to implement a mobile ticketing smartphone app that lets you easily buy and use tickets on your smartphone for use on our buses and trains. The free TriMet Tickets mobile app will be launched in August.

Like the mobile ticketing app, the eFare technology is simple to understand, easy to use and convenient. It also allows customers to enjoy features such as stored value, convenient purchasing and real-time reloading, online account management and payment protection – if a card is lost, cancel that card and the value remains in your account. Right now if you lose your ticket or pass, you’re out the money and need to buy a new one.

eFare system will pay for itself

The eFare system will cost up to $30 million to implement, but should pay for itself over time. It’s expected to reduce fare evasion, increase revenue, and reduce costs associated with ticket vending machines, cash purchases and collection processing.

While an eFare system would not replace our current ticket vending machines, eFare incentives and adjustments to the machines should drive more riders to electronic payment.

Possible ticket vending machine adjustments:

  • No longer provide change, just as parking meters do not
  • Convenience fees, like some ATMs charge
  • Limited fare options

No decisions will be made until the public can weigh in on possible changes.

Schedule for implementing eFare

This summer, TriMet will send out requests for proposals from contractors who could provide elements of the eFare system. By September 2015, when the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail line opens, employee testing is expected to be underway. In 2016, we hope to move to limited customer segment testing and then launch eFare systemwide in 2017.

Our goal is that this becomes a regional system, allowing seamless transfers between TriMet buses, MAX and WES Commuter Rail trains, C-Tran buses and the Portland Streetcar.