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Digital Fare Payment Tech Is Finding Its Way to Small Agencies

Transit systems in Wisconsin and Colorado are upgrading fare payment systems to app-based and contactless payments, with riders no longer needing to stand at vending machines or search for spare change.

Bus rider using smartphone
Transit tech companies are bringing digital fare payment and other technologies found in some of the largest public transit systems to smaller cities.

Eau Claire Transit in Wisconsin, for example, is partnering with Masabi and TransLoc to offer not only an account-based digital fare payments as a service (FPaaS) to riders, but also technology that allows riders expanded trip planning and real-time bus tracking.

Meanwhile, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) — serving the Aspen, Colo., region and the largest rural public transportation provider in the U.S. — will use the Masabi digital fare payments system as well, offering discounts and other perks. The new platform will launch Nov. 21, said Jamie Tatsuno, communications manager for the RFTA.

“With the RFTA Tickets app, we are hoping for faster boarding times and a contactless fare payment system,” said Tatsuno, adding, “We are making our tickets and passes more accessible to our riders who may not be able to access a ticket vending machine or sales outlet to purchase the discounted fare media, being that we are in a rural area.”

RFTA and Eau Claire Transit will use Masabi’s Justride platform, a cloud-based plug-and-play technology used by more than 150 transit agencies across nine countries.

“Justride is the largest and most advanced platform in the world, which means all agencies can get the same ticketing systems as the largest cities for a fraction of the cost — and in a fraction of the time — and still receive continuous updates to ensure their solution is the best it can be,” said James Gooch, head of marketing for Masabi.

Justride is an app-based system that is entirely contactless. Masabi will install the appropriate fare-validator hardware across the bus fleets. Riders who want to continue using cash can make deposits into their accounts at select retail locations.

In Eau Claire, TransLoc will provide tech upgrades to benefit both riders and operators. Riders will get real-time bus location data; while operators will have access to automated passenger counting onboard buses as well as computer-aided dispatch and other features.

“Just a few years ago, this technology would have been out of reach to all but the largest agencies,” said Brian Zanghi, CEO of Masabi, in a statement. “Today, we are delivering this cutting-edge solution to towns and cities all over the world in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost. We are delighted to have been selected to provide this system with our partner TransLoc, and look forward to working with Eau Claire Transit in the years to come.”

In Colorado, the RFTA will not be partnering with TransLoc. The Masabi system will make discount opportunities available to riders. For example, single one-way and round-trip tickets get discounted 25 percent across all RFTA regional routes, 30-day zone passes for routes to and from Aspen and seasonal zone passes. Also, when riders first download the new app and create an account, they will receive a free one-day bus pass good for any of RFTA’s regional routes. Funds can be added to rider accounts via the app when a bank card is attached, or depositing cash into the accounts at retail locations.

RFTA’s current ticketing process involves slipping cash into the fare box on buses, or using a “stored value card” purchased at transit vending machines, said Tatsuno, adding, “We do not have any sort of digital ticketing as of yet.”

The new digital ticketing will happen alongside the existing fare collection system, with RFTA continuing to accept current stored value cards, 30-day zone passes and cash aboard all buses.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.