Best Practices: Mobile Payment

Aug. 15, 2019
Transit operators are harnessing technology capabilities that allow for mobile payment integration.

TriMet’s Hop Fastpass® 

Rhyan Schaub, Director of Fare Revenue & Administrative Service, TriMet

Hop Fastpass® is a state-of-the-art, regional fare collection system, launched in the Portland, Ore., metro area in July 2017. Hop fulfilled TriMet’s vision to build an innovative, best-in-class fare system that reduced costs and maintenance associated with collecting cash. The agency selected an open architecture design, which helped future-proof the system by fostering nimbleness in partnerships, vendor selection, integration and growth. For riders, Hop simplifies and improves the fare payment experience, reducing the need for cash and establishing a secure and convenient payment platform that provides cost savings and other benefits.

Use of open architecture expanded TriMet’s Hop system for development as both a regional and multimodal transportation tool. It operates across TriMet’s bus, light rail and commuter rail platforms, as well as with C-TRAN bus and bus rapid transit service. Hop also integrates with the city of Portland’s streetcar network, offering seamless transfers throughout the region. If a rider moves from a mode with lower fare to a mode with higher fare, a tap of a Hop card deducts only the difference. Riders tap but pay no more if their transfer takes them from a mode with higher fare to one with lower fare.

Through the optimization of Hop’s payment system, TriMet embarked on another industry leading feature—fare capping. Hop Fastpass users earn day and month passes as they ride. Fare capping introduces an equity-based incentive to frequent transit use. It eliminates the upfront and burdensome cost of purchasing day and month passes, replacing it with smart, hassle-free, pay-as-you-go infrastructure.

Hop cards are available at hundreds of local stores and through the Apple Pay or Google Play store. Riders have the option to load money to the card with cash at more than 500 retailers, online at or the Hop mobile app. Hop does not require a bank account or smartphone. Registration is optional and provides additional benefits including lost-card protection. Hop collects anonymous travel pattern data, used in aggregate to analyze ridership trends. TriMet worked with legislators to protect Hop data under Oregon law and has committed not to sell the data to third parties.

In May of 2019, Hop became the first transit fare card in North America to launch in Apple Wallet. The achievement came just over a year after TriMet worked with Google to offer the first virtual transit fare card available within Google Pay globally. Hop’s NFC technology accepts contactless credit cards and payments made through a mobile wallet, even without a Hop card. Users simply tap their phone to a Hop reader. For Apple users, Express Transit with Apple Pay allows them to simply tap and hop onboard without unlocking the phone.

By adopting Hop, TriMet built the regional foundation for mobility as a service (MaaS). MaaS seeks the seamless integration of various transportation options into one, accessible on-demand resource. Its purpose is to streamline options for the customer, optimize routes, reduce congestion and pollution and provide better value for the customer. The result is convenient, sustainable transportation, diminished reliance on personal vehicle ownership and reduced traffic congestion. The idea, is that one day, Hop will be able to integrate with solutions that allow the rider to pursue all travel needs – incorporating not only transit, but transportation network companies, car-sharing services, e-scooters and future generations of on-demand mobility.

Future of fare collection: Mobility integration

Eric Kaled, CEO, Genfare

Transit needs and capabilities are both evolving at a rapid pace and the ideal solutions are ones that not only fulfill today’s demands, but are also flexible and adaptable enough to handle future challenges, as well. Mobile ticketing and payment, already a big part of many agencies’ systems, can play a vital role in those future solutions

One certain component of future transit solutions is integrated mobility, the ability to access multiple modes of transportation, all from one app, consolidating payment while providing an array of options for customizing a trip to suit each rider’s unique needs. By its very nature, it requires a robust, comprehensive and vertically integrated mobile solution.

Why is integrated mobility vital to the future of transit? The answer lies in its inherently flexible, adaptable nature and in its ability to access and incorporate microservices, rather than relying solely on big, established public systems. A rider’s ability to hop on a city bus for part of a journey and then switch to a bikeshare increases the reach of transit, reduces an agency’s operating costs and gives commuters better experiences. When you factor in benefits like reduced environmental impact, it’s hard to deny just how appealing mobility integration is for agencies, cities and riders.

Transportation network companies—like Uber, Lyft and bikeshares—deliver transportation on demand, reducing travel and wait time, while also conserving resources. These ad-hoc solutions, when integrated into a single transportation app, let agencies find efficiencies in their services, while still providing transportation options. It might not make sense to run a city bus to serve two riders and integrated mobility lets agencies make more cost-effective decisions without depriving city residents of vital transportation.

Additionally, mobile ticketing and payment are more than simply a solution for fare collection—the true benefit is when a mobile application fully integrates with your full fare collection system—a single point to manage not only mobile, but also cash (the largest amount of transactions), as well as point-of-sale and electronic payment transactions. Together, the technology functions as a powerful solution that allows public transit to integrate, grow and adapt to meet future needs and provide vital services to communities.

Getting on the right track: How mass transit operators can meet passenger expectations for convenience by implementing mobile payments

Toby Holmes, Vice President US Sales, Ground & Sea, CellPoint Mobile

Seamless payments are both wildly popular and a fact of life for most Americans and Canadians – think of Amazon’s “one-click” purchasing, the “tap-and-go” simplicity of the Starbucks app and, of course, the real-time, mobile-integrated, location-aware payment process that Uber and Lyft (and their competitors) feature.

Mass transit payments, by contrast, are too often removed from the process of booking or boarding, rely on outmoded technology and add unnecessary complexity to riders’ journeys. Mass transit providers may not be competing with Starbucks and Amazon, but they are certainly competing with rideshare companies and other digitally-enabled transportation options. And to compete effectively, they need to add convenience to their payment processes.

Unfortunately, too few North American transit agencies and operators leverage the digital and mobile channels to make payments easier. According to our recent report, Challenges Facing Municipal, Regional and National Transit Agencies in the United States, only 30 percent of providers currently collect fares through a mobile app. In fact, only 39 percent of U.S. ground transportation providers have an app at all, and only 37 percent can accept alternative payment methods (APMs).

Meeting passenger expectations for convenience

Making payments easier is a “low hanging fruit” opportunity for mass transit agencies and one that is less resource-intensive (and faster) to implement that traditional IT deployments. Importantly, this is what their riders say they want. According to another report of ours, Modernizing the Passenger Experience in US Ground Transportation, convenient booking/ticketing process and in-app payments were the two top-ranked features that US riders look for in transit mobile apps, highlighting areas where operators must prioritize their investment in new mobile technology solutions. New and alternative payments matter, too: the same study found that 34 percent of riders say using APMs, such as Apple Pay or Google Pay, for fares is “Very” or “Extremely” important. To enable these payment methods, it requires a deep understanding of payment control and services beyond what fare collection vendors are prepared to provide.

Meeting these expectations for convenient payments may even help mass transit providers get more riders to download transit mobile apps, which puts providers on closer to equal footing with rideshare companies and facilitates fare collection and ridership. Thirty-four percent of riders who say their top priority is making payments more easily can be incentivized to download a transit app and one-third of US riders (31 percent) say reducing the need to carry cash would incentivize them to download a transit app.

With convenient, mobile and digital payment solutions, transit agencies and operators can better meet the needs of passengers. They can increase ridership by modernizing their payment processes, but many agencies will need a technology partner to get started, providing access to payment service providers, acquirers and multiple payment methods and digital wallets such as Google Pay, Apple Pay, AliPay and more.

Transforming the curb – one data point at a time

Roamy Valera, CEO, PayByPhone

British comedian Tommy Cooper once quipped, “You know, somebody actually complimented me on my driving today. They left a little note on the windscreen, it said, ‘Parking Fine.’”

It brought me back to the start of my career as a parking enforcement agent in Miami. Of course, drivers rarely joked when I issued parking citations because their coin-fed meters had run out.

Today’s parking landscape is more complex than it was three decades ago because of the increasing modes of available transportation. At the same time, technological advancements that include mobile payment apps have made using the curb a more frictionless experience for motorists and municipalities alike.

By adopting mobile parking apps, for instance, smart communities have untethered motorists from constant trips to the parking meter by offering the ability to check and extend parking time – all through a mobile app. Plus, these same cities have benefited from the data collected from mobile payments apps, which can help better manage the complexities of the curb.

So, to make strides toward transforming your municipality’s curbside management, use data gleaned from mobile apps to improve usage patterns and match infrastructure and traffic processes to the needs of the community, while simultaneously educating constituents on the benefits emerging technology provides for mobility.

Data delivers usage insight

In the past, data consisted of how much money was collected from a meter. Today, mobile payment apps provide cities with information to help them better manage the curb: how much people pay to park, their method of payment – whether mobile app or credit card, length of stay, which areas fill up quickly and which are underused, to name a few.

This data helps municipalities better understand parking utilization and demand to better manage parking infrastructure – and particularly curbside management, which is increasingly important as more pedestrians, cyclists, motorists and transportation purveyors share the curb. Add that to varying zone requirements and drop-off and pick-up areas, and managing the curb becomes an increasingly complex puzzle.

When parking, transportation and mobility managers have access to this substantial amount of data, they can better evaluate the information and make data-driven decisions to manage all aspects of the curb.

Education is necessary for adoption

While data is a must when tackling the different pieces of the curbside management puzzle, to fully master the curbside, cities must also educate consumers on the benefits of adopting new technology and show them how to use it. Seattle, for example, introduced a successful stakeholder engagement campaign that introduced consumers to a modern, easier way to pay for their parking.

Transportation department employees covered a car in sticky-backed pay-and-display receipts motorists were accustomed to receiving from the city’s parking kiosks. They were prompted to remove a sticky note, which gave directions on how to download and use a mobile parking app to receive a parking discount. The campaign generated buzz while giving users a reason – a discount – to try the app.

Technology can dramatically change the curbside management landscape, but only if it’s widely accepted by motorists. And with new apps and technologies popping up seemingly overnight, there can be challenges in achieving widespread adoption from constituents. By educating consumers and providing strategic marketing initiatives, transportation leaders can encourage technology adoption to provide a smarter, more streamlined mobility landscape for both motorists and the cities they inhabit.

Give parking fine a new meaning

As mobile payments become more prevalent, cities around the globe can use data from adopting these apps to improve management of the curb while educating consumers on the benefits mobile payments provide.

Doing so will help ensure that when people talk about “parking fine,” they truly mean that the parking in your municipality is indeed, fine.

Coming in the September/October issue:

Best Practices for TNC Integration

Have you experienced success integration TNC services into your network and want to share your story? Please contact Executive Editor Mischa Wanek-Libman, [email protected].