Hop_Fastpass_logoTriMet, the Portland Streetcar, and C-Tran (Vancouver, WA) have announced the name of the new smart fare payment system coming in 2017: Hop Fastpass. The name derives from a community engagement process in which Portlanders wanted to promote their craft brewery industry.

The Hop Fastpass will be groundbreaking, at least as far as transit systems in the US go, in several ways:

  • A daily fare cap: Once riders reach the value of a day pass (currently $5, or $2.50 for reduced-fare payers), that is all they have to pay that day.
  • A monthly fare cap: Once riders reach the value of a monthly pass (currently $100, or $28 for reduced-fare payers), they won’t have to pay any more that month.
  • The card readers will also accept Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and contactless bank cards.
  • The daily and monthly caps will only be available on the Hop card.

    TriMet unveiled their mobile ticket app a year ago, and have sold over 5 million mobile tickets. Dallas Area Rapid Transit was the first transit agency in the US to implement mobile payment, but originally on its trains only. TriMet is the first to do so on trains and buses. DART is now offering mobile payment on buses as well.

    44 Replies to “Smart Cards, Fare Caps, and Expanded Open Payment Coming to Portland/Vancouver”

    1. I can’t believe it. They even went with blue and white for the logo.

      Any chance the Apple Pay integration will be branded iHop?

    2. Great ideas. I wonder what percent of KCM riders pay themselves for a full monthly pass. I have never met anyone that does.

      1. I pay for my own pass. I could get a pre-tax one from work but it’s a cumbersome process and I’d only save the income-tax percentage. I did it once but you have to order it almost two months in advance and the month it started had a fare increase so my pass didn’t cover all of it. I threw it away and got a regular pass rather than having to pay 25c cash every trip. I couldn’t put e-purse money on it without going through the prepayment scheme, and I also wasn’t supposed to use it for non-work trips. That’s a problem because if you use two cards you don’t get the free-ride discount if they’re all on a single pass. I make something like 80 trips a month so even with a full-price pass price it comes out to around $1.50 per trip. Not bad.

        I do keep an e-purse for extra-long trips (2-zone, inter-county, Link to SeaTac, Sounder, ferries) but I only make those once a month or so, so it comes out to around $10 per year.

      2. I paid for a 3 dollar pass — enough for any in county journey — (albeit with pre-tax money) while at my previous job. [The tax break was nice, but hardly a deciding factor… I paid for the whole thing myself until the paperwork was complete, and would have continued to do so if there hadn’t been a plan]. I was far from alone.

        Transit isn’t reasonable for my current commute, so I make do with an e-Purse.

      3. It’s pretty standard fare for policy to formally state that transit passes paid for by the employer are for work purposes only. In practice, such policies do not get enforced outside egregious circumstances (e.g. you take the pass and give it to your wife; she uses it to get to work every day, while you drive to the office in a completely different part of town). Even in cases like that, I’m not sure the rules would actually get enforced.

        1. How would that work though if you had a monthly pass? It costs the same if you make 44 trips (approximately what you’d use going to and from work in a month) or 80 trips? Maybe I’m ethics-impaired, but I’m not sure how it’d hurt the company if someone used such a pass for non-work trips, as long as they also used it to get to and from work, since the no -work trips wouldn’t raise the cost of the pass.

      4. i pay for mine, as do all the people I work with who use passes. Our company made it easy for us to use the pre-tax option, but we do pay for them ourselves.

        1. I call that getting a subsidized pass at work. My point is, while a monthly cap sounds cool, I bet it would never be relevant.

        2. I used to pay for my own pass at ST two-county level; I don’t think my employer at the time offered the pre-tax pass purchase, or if it did, I didn’t know about it. Of course, that meant any month in which I was going to miss more than a few days of work I’d use e-pass instead. The cap would have been nice for me to have, but it would be a little harder to set fairly given our large spread of fares.

        3. The point of the monthly cap (or daily cap) is that you don’t have to get the pass ahead of time or guess whether you’ll make enough trips to reach the break-even point. Obviously I would anyway, but visitors or occasional riders may not know how many trips they’ll take. Sometimes it depends on whether your plans change or you end up running into somebody who gives you a ride. If there is a fare cap on the pass, it’s unfair to gouge e-purse payers. It could be argued necessary for inventory control, except I doubt that ridership changes that much month-by-month that they can’t just estimate it’ll be similar to last month or the same month last year.

    3. For the last thirty years, every time I arrive in Portland, after a three minute walk from the train station door to the closest MAX stop, something happens that leaves me angry for a week. One button-push on a fare machine, and for five dollars get a paper ticket good all day.

      Full fare, incidentally, because my actual honor forbids paying half that for an “Honored Citizen” fare for half that. For a system with many times our amount of electric rail, and also good on buses.

      Since my last two encounters with LINK fare, inspectors, incidentally, duelling-level honor I one-hundred-percent always start every day involving any LINK travel buying a two dollar all-day pass. Incidentally, I defy anyone, local or visitor, even find out about that pass except by accident.

      With LINK, personal honor works the other way. I always correctly tap my ORCA card because I believe in our transit system, and am more than willing to provide the information it needs for best performance.
      But those extra two dollars are for State Farm would call theft insurance.

      In this case, more appropriate would be “Accusation-of-Theft-Resulting-In- A – $124 Fine – For-An-Honest-Mistake” insurance. To put it another way, Tri-met and LINK, the paper pass is a hundred percent exculpatory evidence against a fare-evasion charge. An ORCA card? Potential “state’s evidence” for the prosecution.

      For a pass not even good for buses with the same company colors.

      Glenn, I hope you’re online this morning, so some perspective I don’t think anyone else can give. What’s the deciding difference on this one, Portland over Seattle. Dumber and more gutless passengers here, or just more resigned and lazier ones?

      BTW, new streetcar and MAX bridge at Tillikum not open yet day before. Can’t make it back today. Gotta go back next week.

      Mark Dublin

      1. Not this morning. Spent much of the first part of be day enjoying orange line festivities. Once afternoon temperatures set in, it’s not so enjoyable.

        TriMet is actually a very conservative agency. They didn’t decide to go this direction until Chicago announced a plan with contactless credit cards. The ORCA effort started years before TriMet decided this was the direction they were going. In this case, waiting for the second generation of cards was a good idea.

        TriMet also has a small area to cover, and the pass doesn’t have to cover as many agencies. C-Tran is it. Everyone else in this area is the size of Island Transit or smaller. Canby Transit? One route. Nobody in those small agencies are going to have an electronic fare system any time soon. No water taxi. No state ferry.

      2. One other thing that is different about TriMetin recent years: I went to the new main office in downtown about a year ago for a bid opening. It seemed like many of the employees were interns from nearby PSU and had recently backpacked across Europe or the like.

        Maybe some fresh blood has been introduced, and is doing some good. I believe there are passes in Europe that work much like this, complete with the fare cap.

    4. Guess everybody is in Portland either walking and bicycling, in addition to MAX and A and B-line streetcar riding across the new bridge. After getting extra Honor because their Day Pass in half price.

      Or, as is more likely, the STB over length commentating monopoly has forced the whole readership to flee to Twitter. Where nobody gets more than…well, certain number of characters. Word to blog staff: [TDL!] has to be tougher than [OT]!

      Only flaw in system is that since none of us culprits even knows how to get onto social media, whatever we weigh, we don’t care what we’re being Shamed for. Ten years into full-time public transit, and you’ve got less sense of shame than a cat. Who get almost a hundred percent + or whatever.

      Is a Meow in Litter same value as a Tweet in Twitter?


      1. The entire system was free today, so everything was busy. Buses too. Also Portland Arial Tram, which is normally $4.50 a trip or something.

        I don’t know about it being all of Portland there though. At least half the city was stuck on I-5. I think there as some sort of special event at the convention center or something everyone was trying to drive to.

        Going fare free just for this day was the thing to do. Electronic fare or phone fare or whatever, it would have been much too difficult to try to do any of it today.

      2. Would anyone happen to know if there are plans in the works to have U-Link be free on opening day? This time, just let people board, instead of counting seats. The expectation of people needing to sit became a self-fulfilling prophesy on Central Link opening day, after standing in line two hours, due to ridership on each train being artificially and pointlessly constrained.

        1. Did they really not let people stand on Link the first day? Well, they were probably trying to avoid people having a bad experience on the train which would make them never ride it again. Since we were a land of non-subway riders at that point. In any weekend, a free weekend or systemwide day is better than what they did in Vancouver for the Canada Line. That was a free hour, and people were still in line when the hour ended and had to pay the fare, even though they had waited the longest.

        2. As I write this, I wait for a TriMet #33 that is 15 minutes late.

          Want to guess how late it would have been if all the first time riders had to pay a fare?

        3. I imagine the free fares would be limited to Link and Metro within Seattle, realistically. I’d love for a region-wide celebration (imagine ditching the $5.50 fare for the Community Transit expresses from my neck of the woods) with some extra service to handle the (hopefully) very large crowds.

        4. Don’t expect Opening Day to be on a weekday. A crowded ST Express 512 will get you downtown for the party.

        5. “n any weekend case, a free weekend or systemwide day”

          Did I really write that? Sometimes I think STB mangles words at random. I make an inordinate amount of wording errors on this site that I don’t do anywhere else.

    5. Dallas Area Rapid Transit was the first transit agency in the US to implement mobile payment, but originally on its trains only. TriMet is the first to do so on trains and buses. DART is now offering mobile payment on buses as well.

      GoPass–the mobile payment system DART uses–is also regional. The T (Fort Worth Transportation Authority), DCTA (Denton County Transportation Authority), and Trinity Railway Express (jointly owned by DART and The T) also use it and it works for transfers between systems.

    6. Other systems have had day passes for decades. Paper ones still work fine- for both Portland and LINK. ORCA should make them even easier. Here in Olympia, except for the express buses up to Tacoma, there are two fares:

      A single ride. And instead of any transfer, a paper all day pass for twice the fare of a single ride. From my own experience as both a driver and a passenger. To me, paying for a whole day’s transit at once should be standard for any system.

      Try being part of a crush load in the DSTT at pm rush. When there’s a wheelchair to load on your bus or its leaders. And am I right that contrary to a lifetime’s mandatory transit practice, rear door kept shut during chair loading.

      Or when a half dozen passengers need to either ask about their fare or find it before paying it?
      On the hybrids, not only can’t the air conditioning be used on “Hush” mode, but not a single window will open.

      Guaranteed, one personal 5pm Tunnel ride will make every single transit official in the region publicly demand that the Federal put an end to on-board fare collection in the Tunnel before that rush-hour’s end. Personally bet same thing will happen first time any Federal inspector rides at all.

      Considering the cost of every minute an in-service bus is not moving- let alone both consumer good-will and plain human decency- why can’t just go to simplest possible cashless system.

      1. Inbound, outside the Tunnel, pay on boarding for day-pass only, preferably someplace besides fare-box, to be shown before leaving mezzanines. No need for turnstiles. Since no money is collected, card tables manned by fare inspectors or security should work fine.

      2. Outbound from Tunnel,and Tunnel-only boarding, buy fare at machines both in and outside the DSTT. And at nearby stores, cafes, and public buildings. Inspect fares on mezzanines.

      3. For all service outside the Tunnel, buy day-pass to be shown, or ORCA card to be tapped before boarding. Exit from any door, preferably rear door at rush hour. Surface zones and stops, Proof of Payment. Inspection rush hour all stops, random except for major ones off-peak.

      Having occupied every seat on the bus and aisle space as well, I think both transit and the vast majority of the passenger public will find buying whole day’s transit at once, as far from vehicles as possible, a very good deal, financially and for convenience.

      For those who can’t afford it, simplest to simply issue them system passes for as long as their incomes warrant.

      Mark Dublin

      1. One of the problems there vs here is that somehow, there the agencies are trying to keep track of how many riders ride what so they can split the revenue equitably.

        Here, they don’t care. They figure the number of people buying a C-Tran day ticket and going into TriMet land is statistically insignificantly different than those that buy a TriMet day ticket and go into C-Tran territory. So, no effort to keep detailed records about who rides what.

        1. Heartless or pitiless maybe, but like Peter Pan’s caution about his girlfriend Tinkerbell’s relatives, I think that any time a transit employee or official uses the “separate agencies” argument to excuse blatant damage to system performance, an hour of operating time dies

          In 1996, in return for approving Sound Transit’s creation, we were promised a seamless, integrated fare system. In addition to other things only achievable if whether they liked it or not, everybody transit agency needed to pretend that they belong to the same one.

          Except in the IT world, nobody shows up for company office work in clothes with large visible raggedy seams showing. Nor anyone operating machinery, or any other need to move fast and not get dragged into spinning gears and shafts.

          Our service area is the Empire of Information Tech. So somebody in South Lake Union should be able to work out a system where data like fare purchase location, date, and time of day can be correlated with ridership and money owed each region.

          ORCA cards also generally carry the addresses of the people who bought them. Which can then be correlated with where and when these cards were inspected or tapped. And you can make faces unreadable and then use real-time video pics to read passenger numbers and direction.

          I’m still trying to ascertain and publicize the cost one one minute that every in-service vehicle spends when it’s stopped when it should be moving. Because my own position right now is that the amount of delay time resulting from apportioning pennies would add enough dollars to the system to swiftly repay any discrepancies among the agencies.

          Mark Dublin

        2. OK, so let’s check the Region 10 Statistics for the National Transit Database:

          If we select King County Metro, and then 2013 (the latest statistics available) we get this:

          Which tells us that each hour of King County Metro bus revenue service costs $159.43. So, each minute of delay costs $2.66 since many of the costs are per hour rather than per mile.

          Delay the bus a minute fumbling for cash? You might as well have stolen the money from the farebox or not paid.

          Each traffic light that delays a bus is gold plated.

          At $4.33 per minute, each traffic light that delays an SLU streetcar could be gold plated and placed on a solid bronze pedestal.

        3. So two appearances of the clumsier cash fumbler costs Metro more than the “expense” of giving him/her a free ORCA card?

      1. How does the speed of payment with contactless credit cards compare with Orca? My guess is it’s probably slower since it has to communicate with the credit card company. Probably still faster than cash, though.

        1. In TriMet land, it’s more a matter of how does contactless card technology compare to a visually recognizable printed ticket you show the driver? Anything that is done will be slower than that.

          My understanding is that this type of payment system has been used by systems in Europe for a while. If so, maybe they have a method that doesn’t take too long.

    7. I’m guessing that the day ticket price limit will not apply to the special regional expresses operated by C-Tran, as those are extra fare.

    8. Correction: TriMet unleashed the mobile ticket app in September of 2013, so it’s been slightly over 2 years now. It wasn’t quite two years when the press release at the above link came out in August of this year.

    9. That’s 35million to start. It doesn’t include overruns, long term employees, retirement… Etc.

      Stupid…stupid…stupid. Should have just paid orca. A seamless system all the way? Yeah…too easy. If cascadia could take orca….yeah.

      Just dumb. Orca will eventually go electronic. Trimet could have ridden the wave for free.

      1. We pay a substantial amount of money for its proprietary technology, which has been given as the reason for not undertaking small programming tasks like weekly passes or fare caps or better TVM options. How much ongoing overhead is Portland paying, and how does it compare? How much does it cost per transaction for external bank cards and online checkout systems?

      2. This has already been brought up. Here is a bit of an explanation as to why TriMet went this way:

        Not mentioned is some stuff I don’t completely understand, but it has to do with certain fare changes having to be approved by the entire pod or something? Someone more familiar with the intricacies of how ORCA works could explain.

        I would certainly prefer to see a true single card for the region. Especially if I didn’t have to deal with Canadian cash.

    10. The Tri-met app is REALLY handy for visiting. You just click to buy a ticket that’s good for a few hours and show your screen to the bus driver when you get on. Beats having to carry change or figure out what the fare is, and speeds up boarding.

      1. I’ve heard that it doesn’t work very well with certain older phones, but I’ve never seen anything telling me which ones so I’ve never tried it.

        There are certain things you have to know. For example, to prove it is a valid fare and not a spoof you should know how to turn on the bus lights on the image on the ticket face.

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t it also have the fare limiting feature the new TriMet card is supposed to have? That is, you never pay more than $5 a day or $26 per week or $100 per month?

    11. Meanwhile, here in Seattle if you want a day pass you need to decide to buy one before you ride, and you need to pay 2.67x the cost of a train ride to the airport.

      I realize our hodgepodge of different fare categories makes a fare cap more complicated than in Portland where it’s just “ride any transit twice in a day and subsequent rides are free,” but computers should be able to take care of it. The basic principle of the thing is that you should never pay more using e-purse than if you had paid for a pass.

      The Orca system never forgets about any of the rides you took. Every time you tap the card the system could check to see whether it would have been a better deal for you to buy a day pass (or monthly pass) for the ride you’re about to take. If so, buy the pass and retroactively apply it to the rides you took already.

      Sadly, this will likely never come into fruition in the Puget Sound area because each transit agency’s bean counters seem to win out over any notion of customer service.

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