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TriMet awards contract for electric fare system

TriMet awarded a major contract Wednesday to bring an electronic fare system to the regional transit agency by 2017.

Although the system will cost up to $30 million to implement, TriMet says it will eventually pay for itself.

TriMet released the following statement about the contract award and system Wednesday afternoon:

TriMet has selected Innovations in Transportation, Inc. (INIT) to begin designing the equipment needed for an e-fare system, as well as a smart card for transit use only. Once TriMet’s e-fare system is fully implemented, you will be able to choose from a variety of easy payment options: transit-only smart card, contactless bank card and a smartphone with Near Field Communications.

“While we are dedicated to restoring service, we’re also focused on making the ride better and easier for our riders,” said TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane. “The ability to conveniently and quickly pay your fare by simply tapping your card or device against an electronic reader is just one of the exciting benefits that come with e-fare and will, we think, encourage more people to ride.”

Along with payment options and convenience afforded by e-fare, TriMet is also looking at the possibility of daily and monthly fare caps. “Right now you can purchase an adult monthly pass for $100 and take as many rides as you wish during that time period but it requires that upfront cost that some cannot afford,” said TriMet Director of Revenue Chris Tucker. “With what we are proposing for our e-fare system, you could pre-pay for the month or possibly pay as you go and once you reach a $100 cap, the remainder of rides in that month would be free.” For someone who rides every day, after day 20 the rides would be free.

Teaming up with INIT

TriMet chose INIT through a competitive process to create an account-based fare management system that will support both a transit-only cards and open payments. The $14.3 million base contract covers e-fare equipment and inspection devices, customer web portals and 1.3 million smart cards. TriMet also recently contracted with INIT for a new radio system for our buses. The full implementation of that system is nearing completion.

E-fare system will pay for itself

The full e-fare system will cost up to $30 million to implement, which includes additional contracts such as civil construction for validator placement on rail platforms. It’s expected to increase revenue and reduce costs associated with ticket vending machines and cash collection processing.

An account-based e-fare system

Unlike some other transit agencies that have already implemented e-fare, TriMet’s account-based system can provide payment protection. If a registered 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.

Managing your account will also be easier. You will be able to reload your transit-only card via phone, web or at retail stores throughout the region or by setting up an auto-load feature that adds money to your account automatically from your bank account. Those who don’t have a bank account will be able to purchase e-fare cards similar to gift cards at grocery stores and other retail outlets. This will improve access for everyone, especially low-income riders.

Schedule for implementing e-fare

TriMet employees will begin internally testing of the e-fare system in fall 2015 with the opening of the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail line. In 2016, we hope to move to limited customer segment testing and then launch e-fare 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.

E-fare is next step to making riding easier

TriMet became the first transit agency in the U.S. to implement a mobile ticketing smartphone app for use on both buses and trains. The free TriMet Tickets mobile app launched in September 2013 and we are nearing 900,000 mobile tickets purchased. Based on the popularity of the mobile tickets, we expect riders will embrace e-fare with the same enthusiasm.

Sign up for e-fare information

Go to trimet.org/e-fare to learn more about our future e-fare system and sign up for updates.