July 11, 2013

TriMet aims to roll out electronic fare system in 2015

Photo courtesy TriMet

Photo courtesy TriMet

Portland, Ore.-based TriMet plans to implement 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 riders to conveniently and quickly pay fares by tapping a contactless payment device against an electronic reader — no exact change or paper ticket needed.

Fares could be purchased with a transit-only smart card; using a bank-issued credit or debit card equipped with a microchip; or via a smartphone equipped with Near Field Communications. Riders 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. The cards could be purchased at convenience stores, grocery stores and other retail outlets. This will improve access for everyone, especially low-income riders.

Another benefit for frequent transit users and low income riders would be daily and monthly caps on fares paid. Currently a Day Pass costs $5 for an adult and is good for unlimited trips in a given day. The eFare system would also have a daily maximum cost. The same is true on a monthly basis.

According to the agency, TriMet will be the first U.S. multimodal transit system to implement a mobile ticketing smartphone app that lets riders buy and use tickets on smartphones for use on our buses and trains. The free TriMet Tickets mobile app will be launched in August.

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 TriMet’s current ticket vending machines, the agency expects eFare incentives and adjustments to the machines to drive more riders to electronic payment.

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

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, TriMet plans to move to limited customer segment testing and then launch eFare systemwide in 2017.

RELATED: "Calif.'s NCTD to launch mobile ticketing app"

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