State of California launches Cal-ITP Benefits, an online tool for transit riders to verify identity, benefit eligibility, link fare discounts to debit and credit cards

Sept. 27, 2022
California is one of the first states to integrate the federal government’s secure sign-in service, enabling older adults to tap to pay a discounted bus fare at participating transit agencies.

The California Integrated Travel Project (Cal-ITP) launched a new web application called Cal-ITP Benefits, which allows transit riders to quickly and securely verify their eligibility online for discounted fares and link that discount benefit to a contactless debit or credit card to automatically receive reduced fares whenever they tap to pay with the card. 

Cal-ITP Benefits is initially available for people 65 and older who ride Monterey-Salinas Transit (MST) buses, with plans to expand the service to other transit agencies— including ones outside of California. The web application is available in multiple languages and uses as a secure sign-in service to verify a transit customer’s age for a senior fare discount. This removes the need for someone to appear in person at a transit agency to apply for the discount-fare benefit. 

“Cal-ITP Benefits can help decrease the administrative burden on transit agencies and remove barriers for riders to receive fare discounts while improving social equity and the customer experience,” said Caltrans California Integrated Mobility Program Manager Gillian Gillett, who leads Cal-ITP. “Our web app makes accessing lower fares easier for customers, which will help grow transit ridership.” 

Cal-ITP Benefits is the product of a collaboration between Cal-ITP and the Digital Identity team at the California Department of Technology (CDT), leveraging CDT’s expertise from researching the development of a Digital ID system to be used across all state departments and transitioning all state forms to be signed and submitted electronically. In the future, the Cal-ITP Benefits platform can be expanded to provide digital eligibility verification for students, veterans, people with disabilities, low-income residents and others who are eligible for transit discounts. There’s also the potential to expand the service to other benefits beyond transit. 

“The Cal-ITP project offered us a test-case to deliver dependable and equitable public services and reduce outdated paper-based processes,” said Greg Fair, California Digital Identity chief and acting chief product officer, CDT. “Cal-ITP Benefits’ open-source software and lessons learned from streamlining identity and eligibility verification for this secure government product could be applied to more of California’s social service benefits, from park passes and electric vehicle benefits to unemployment and food assistance programs.” 

While more than 30 federal agencies already use for single sign-in and digital identity verification—including the Social Security Administration, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, the Transportation Security Administration (including Global Entry) and the Small Business Administration—Cal-ITP says California is one of the first states to collaborate with on an application of its secure and centralized verification service. 

“Having access to a secure, seamless and equitable identity verification service is key when receiving benefits and strong, effective partnerships on the state level is a great point of entry into shared services like,” said GSA’s Technology Transformation Services Acting Director Lauren Bracey Scheidt. “Our California partners were focused and driven to making a difference in this federal-state collaboration and we at GSA are excited to help serve members of the public in the Monterey-Salinas Transit area.” 

Cal-ITP Benefits reduces administrative costs to the government and meets the customer-oriented government goals established by President Joe Biden’s Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government Executive Order. 

Cal-ITP Benefits also embraces California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s equity and inclusion goals in his:  

  • New Executive Order N 16-22, which aims to tackle disparities in opportunities and outcomes and advance equity in part by designing and delivering state services to address unequal starting points and drive equal outcomes.  
  • Master Plan for Aging, which notes that by 2030, 10.8 million Californians will be an older adult—one-quarter of the state’s population.  
  • Executive Orders N-19-19 and N-79-20, which call for more equitable access to and easier use of public transportation to fight climate change. 

How Cal-ITP Benefits works

A user visits the Cal-ITP Benefits web app, either directly or linked from a transit agency. They then verify their identity via, and the Cal-ITP Benefits web app links the customer’s fare discount benefit to the contactless Visa or Mastercard debit or credit card of the user’s choosing. 

The payment processing and discount groups are handled by Littlepay, a U.K.- and Australia-based provider of payment infrastructure for transit and mobility. The benefits web app was designed and developed for Cal-ITP by Compiler, a Los Angeles–based software consultancy. 

“‘How do I get my fare discount onto my contactless bank card?’ is the top question asked by MST riders since my transit agency launched the state’s first contactless open-loop fare payments demonstration with Cal-ITP last year,” said MST General Manager/CEO Carl Sedoryk. 

 “We needed a digital tool that is convenient to use, maintains customer privacy and respects both my staff and customers’ time—and dignity—while offering instructions in both English and Spanish to meet the needs of our service-area residents. We get all of that with Cal-ITP Benefits. Plus, the web app is open to anyone with a account who is 65 or older and wants to ride MST for half-price when they visit our world-class Central Coast region for business or pleasure,” Sedoryk concluded.