TouchPass Electronic fare collection (Delerrok Inc.)

Transit agency pilots cloud-based fare collection

Electronic fare collection for public transit is nothing new, but for many cities, the expense of setting up the IT infrastructure has pushed it beyond their reach. A new as-a-service option is trying to change that.

TouchPass is a subscription-based cloud-based electronic fare collection system developed by California-based Delerrok Inc. Fees scale as ridership changes, and the service saves cities the cost of setting up the hardware, software development, maintenance and upgrades. 

The Rogue Valley Transportation District in Medford, Ore., piloted this technology a few months ago and is now using it in day-to-day operations. RVTD General Manager Julie Brown said other options were just too expensive for the organization, which has 23 fixed route vehicles serving 1.3 million rides a year in seven small cities in Oregon.

So when RVTD put out a request for proposal to replace its fare collection system, officials got responses from companies offering those high-cost services. But RVTD Associate Planner Jon Sullivan heard about TouchPass and contacted the company.

Sullivan said installation was a breeze. “We didn’t have to purchase any software licenses or computers or servers,” he said. The bus stations already had the wireless access points the system needed. The only installation required was the reader on the buses -- that required power, Ethernet through the dash and modems to communicate with the 4G network. 

“We’re talking a matter of about a week of labor to get those reader installed,” he said.

About 35 percent of RVTD ridership is currently using TouchPass, which allows riders to pay with either a fare card or their smartphone, Sullivan said.  Passengers can put funds in their transit accounts through a web-based interface, which means RVTD did not have to invest in fare vending machines. Riders without internet access can buy and put money on fare cards at brick-and-mortar locations.

Besides the convenience for passengers, the new TouchPass system gives RVTD access to more ridership data than its old setup. Now, RVTD can have the location, route, time and date of trip transactions. This data, especially information on the origin of a trip, “is really coveted in our industry,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said RVTD noticed some obvious benefits beyond price -- like the ability to check the account of a rider who says he’s been denied entry, or the rider’s ability to pay online.

RVTD has not switched all its ticketing options over to TouchPass yet, but it plans to do so by this summer.

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a reporter/producer at GCN.

Before joining GCN, Leonard worked as a local reporter for The Smithfield Times in southeastern Virginia. In his time there he wrote about town council meetings, local crime and what to do if a beaver dam floods your back yard. Over the last few years, he has spent time at The Commonwealth Times, The Denver Post and WTVR-CBS 6. He is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, where he received the faculty award for print and online journalism.

Leonard can be contacted at mleonard@gcn.com or follow him on Twitter @Matt_Lnrd.

Click here for previous articles by Leonard.


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