2022 40 Under 40: Sophia Maletz Franklyn

Aug. 23, 2022
Sophia Maletz Franklyn, MBA, Director of Fare Revenue & Administrative Services, TriMet

One word to describe yourself: Gardener  

Alma Mater: Oregon State University (Undergrad), Willamette University (MBA)  

Fun fact about yourself: I’m in two book clubs! And yes, we actually read the books.   

Favorite station or stop that you have ever visited or frequent (and why): My home stop on TriMet’s light rail (which will go unnamed)! That feeling when you arrive back to your home stop after a long day’s work, Portland Trail Blazers game or evening out with friends is undeniably good.   

Favorite route you have ever ridden or frequent (and why): TriMet’s MAX Orange Line. It crosses over the most breathtaking bridge with views of the Willamette River and downtown Portland. Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People, is the first major bridge in the U.S. designed specifically for public and active transportation and not for privately-owned cars. Public art installations are built into the stops along the journey, turning travel along the Orange Line into something of beauty. 

Sophia Maletz Franklyn is a passionate transit innovator. She entered the transit industry in 2013 as a technology consultant for Avanade on the Accenture Fare Management Solution. During her tenure at Avanade, she worked as a senior business analyst and requirements manager on a $33 million fare payment implementation project for Washington, D.C. She was adept at working with transit agencies to design new fare collection solutions. In 2016, she joined moovel North America as a technical project manager. In this position she simultaneously managed three mobile payment projects including complex backend integrations with competing vendors and helped grow the company from 30 employees to 160. She also worked across the organization to define company-wide structure and processes.  

In 2017, she was promoted at moovel to R&D program manager to help advance payment innovation for public transit. R&D worked on cutting edge technology like Bluetooth-enabled fare validation and she was charged with explaining and demonstrating it to the industry. She took on successive responsibilities and ended up being a critical driver in R&D efforts, collaborating with transit agencies across the globe to drive innovation. She participated in many panels, discussions, workshops and think tanks to help share knowledge on technology and payment best practices, while also serving as an advocate for public transportation as a critical backbone to mobility-as-a-service. She demonstrated mastery of technical issues and a sense of poise in balancing the needs and demands of multiple internal and external stakeholders. She understood how to think like an engineer, a product manager and a salesperson and would approach complex situations always knowing how to use that perspective to reach people and bring the best out in their own potential. She thought outside of the box as she invented new ways for transit technology to serve riders, resulting in her securing four patents. Colleagues from moovel describe her as collaborative, thoughtful, caring and the heart of any team.  

In 2020, she joined TriMet as manager and senior analyst of fare systems. Less than two years later, she was promoted to her current position of director of fare revenue and administrative services. In her current role, she oversees a department of 50 staff, including five direct reports and a unionized workforce to collect fare revenue for TriMet, C-TRAN and Portland Streetcar. She oversaw the collection of $55 million in fare revenue in FY22, a 36 percent increase over the previous fiscal year, including processing $8.9 million in cash. She also helped maintain 10 Hop Fastpass® sales channels to reach customers across the region including a walk-up office, websites, mobile apps, ticket vending machines, retail network and more. Her efforts also resulted in an enormous increase in riders utilizing contactless bank cards and mobile wallets – up 135 percent from fiscal year 2021. Now, approximately eight percent of full fare taps are coming from contactless bank cards and mobile wallets. She also oversees interoffice mail, print services and business process improvement teams to provide value-added services to the agency. 

She volunteers her time in the industry and community and is committed to ensuring fare, equitable transportation for all. Colleagues say she is a great mentor for women looking to break into engineering, research and innovation, and a great example of what’s possible for future leaders in transit. 

Is there a specific experience that led you to where you are today?    

At age 19, I traveled from Valdivia, Chile, to Cusco, Peru, exclusively by local bus. It was 75 hours in transit of pure joy and exploration. Two years later, I crossed the Gobi Desert with locals in a minibus, with ridership triple capacity, windows wide open and luggage packed all around us. That was 24 hours of misery. I was fascinated with public transportation, but it had never occurred to me that I could make a career out of it. Fortunately, while working for a tech consulting firm in NYC, I was assigned to a fare payments project to support the Toronto Transit Commission’s launch of the Presto card. That was the hook, and I haven’t turned back since!   

What do you enjoy most about your job?    

Riding TriMet. I’m invested in this work because it gives my community the freedom to move around their city. For many years I worked on implementing fare payment systems in cities or countries where I didn’t reside. I never saw the daily usage or long-term impacts of my work. It’s rewarding to see it in action here in Portland, where people from so many walks of life ride transit. I’m also grateful for my team and all the people who proceeded me. Our Hop Fastpass® contactless electronic fare system wouldn’t be what it is today without a host of incredible minds supporting it and thinking creatively about how to improve it.    

What’s the most challenging part of your job?    

From day one, it’s been the same challenge: trying to collaborate between the financial technology (Fintech) industry and government. On one side, the principles of innovation include iterative ideation and development, with a quick to fail and get back up mentality. From the other perspective, the mantra is to provide reliable, equitable service with a low tolerance for risk. The difficulty of balancing these often-competing ideologies makes the reward of introducing improvements to fare payments that much sweeter. Next time you jump on a TriMet, C-TRAN or Portland Streetcar vehicle, try tapping your contactless credit card or mobile wallet directly on the validator. We’re processing micro-payments in real time to cover your fare. Need to transfer vehicles, want a day pass or afraid of being inspected? No worries, it works for all those scenarios too. That’s only because of patient collaboration from the private sector and leadership at a public agency that was willing to take a risk. Looking forward to all the challenges to come!       

 Accomplishment you’re most proud of and why?    

In a survey TriMet commissioned in 2022, 81 percent of customers said it was “easy to pay their fare.” For an industry that was gutted by the pandemic, it’s affirming to see this level of approval for fare payments. A very small team “keeps the lights on” to collect fares. Like many industries, we’ve seen high turnover, including 75 percent turnover in the engineering group supporting the Hop system. Seeing the team rally to onboard new staff and raise the bar in providing an exceptional payment service is incredible.   

Best advice/tip/best practice to share from your area of expertise?    

“If at first you don't succeed, have some cake.”  

“I see, does it work?”  

“Every time.”  

Charlie Mackesy, “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” 

Trimet 10944709


May 17, 2013