Eno Releases New Report on MOD Fare Integration with Transit

Over the past several years, some transit agencies have adopted more sophisticated electronic fare payment methods and achieved greater integration with other regional transportation providers and third party apps. When successful, the integration of fare payment across agencies and modes creates a more seamless travel experience for riders and boosts ridership. However, the emergence of new, app-based transportation providers and services has introduced new complexities as transit agencies reconsider how to collect fares on new vehicles and through third party apps.

As part of the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Mobility on Demand Sandbox Demonstration Program, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro) collaborated with King County, Washington Metro Transit (King County Metro) and the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit) to contract with Via, a TNC, to provide first/last mile service to select transit stations near disadvantaged communities. One of the project’s stated goals was to achieve payment integration between the transit agencies and Via, with an explicit focus on serving the unbanked and lower-income riders.

In the case of transit agency partnerships with TNCs, experience from the Los Angeles and Puget Sound regions can shed light on the challenges and opportunities of integrating fare payment systems among private mobility services and public transit operators.

In the Puget Sound region, the transit agencies and Via were able to achieve rudimentary fare integration with the region’s ORCA card system by installing portable card readers in the MOD vehicles. Los Angeles was able to achieve partial fare integration by allowing riders to enter their TAP card numbers into the Via app. This enabled the agencies to provide free transfers and validate youth, disabled, or senior fare eligibility. However, this feature was discontinued once all rides on the pilot became free to boost ridership.

When LA Metro received the FTA MOD Sandbox grant award in 2016, its TAP office was already planning to upgrade its fare payment system to a new, account-based system called TAPForce designed integrate with most application programming interfaces (APIs). TAPForce likely could have integrated with Via’s payment system, but the existing timeline for the TAP overhaul did not align with the pilot launch.

Eno worked with the MOD project partners to evaluate the regions’ fare integration efforts and develop a policy report with lessons learned for integrating fare payment systems between transit agencies and private MOD providers. The report provides seven recommendations:

  • Prioritize project goals. Agencies should weigh the goal of fare integration against other project objectives, and take potential time and expenses into account when determining how much effort to devote to achieving integration.
  • Use the benefits of positive partnerships. The mutual trust and working relationship between Via and the Puget Sound agencies was instrumental in facilitating the deployment of sensitive ORCA card readers in Via vehicles.
  • Design adaptable fare systems. When investing capital into a new fare system, planning for future changes and adaptability with other agencies and private mobility providers reduces costs and headaches in the future.
  • Coordinate early and often with the agency staff who are responsible for fare collection and media. Achieving fare integration is more feasible when the opportunities and limitations of existing and future fare payment systems are understood, and when there is robust collaboration within the agency.
  • Recognize the utility of fare payment data. Being able to access fare data is immensely useful for agencies to assess whether a service is useful to passengers, and whether or not to continue the service in the future.
  • Consider fare-free and free-transfer options. Maintaining fare payment systems allows transportation providers to track travel behavior, even when the cost of a ride is free, though deploying and operating these systems entails a financial cost.
  • Allow for multiple payment methods to increase equity in access. Fare integration efforts should ensure that standard fare media is able to be re-filled in various locations with cash and card, and allow for additional methods of payment on-board such as pre-paid or credit cards.

The full paper was released on September 23, and can be found here.

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