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Four Northern California transit agencies join forces to buy contactless open-loop fare payment systems off of California’s purchasing agreements

Humboldt Transit Authority, Lake Transit Authority, Mendocino Transit Authority, and Redwood Coast Transit Authority install a modern fare system that accepts riders’ bank cards and mobile wallets


For immediate release

Sacramento, CA—Transit riders in four counties north of the San Francisco Bay Area can now tap to ride the bus on four public transit agencies—and seamlessly transfer between the agencies’ dial-a-ride vehicles or local and regional lines at shared bus stops—without stopping to download any apps, purchase or reload multiple agency farecards, or juggle exact change.

Humboldt Transit Authority, Lake Transit Authority, Mendocino Transit Authority, and Redwood Coast Transit Authority—collectively part of North State Super Region working group, also known as the Far North Group—are the first group of agencies to band together to use the State of California’s competitively priced contracts to purchase and install the hardware and software services needed for accepting customers’ debit and credit cards and mobile wallets for fare payments.

Cal-ITP—Caltrans’ California Integrated Travel Project—supported the agencies through the process of purchasing open-loop payment acceptance devices and fare calculation software from the State of California’s competitively awarded Master Service Agreements (MSAs), contracts that allow U.S. transit agencies to purchase directly from vendors without further competitive bidding.

“We’re excited to offer contactless fare payment to the riders in our region, to make it easy for customers to choose public transportation and pay for bus rides the same way they do for other everyday purchases,” says Greg Pratt, General Manager of Humboldt Transit Authority. “California’s MSAs and Cal-ITP’s free technical support helped us save the hassle and expense of running our own procurement while modernizing our fare systems with contactless hardware and fare-calculation and payment-processing software services. And by purchasing together from the MSAs, we were able to take advantage of bulk-buy cost savings.”

No matter which of the four agencies’ fixed-route buses they board, customers will see the same contactless payment readers installed at the front of the bus. If a customer’s debit or credit card has the contactless symbol on it—or if they use a mobile payment option—they can tap the payment reader, see payment confirmation via a green checkmark on the screen, and then enjoy their ride. In addition to contactless-enabled bank cards, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, and Fitbit Pay digital wallets can be tapped on the payment readers.

“Paying for travel should be as simple as buying a cup of coffee, and adding contactless debit and credit card readers makes transportation more accessible and user-friendly for all riders. It also facilitates the seamless connections that travelers want and need,” says Gillian Gillett, Caltrans’ Data & Digital Services Division Chief and California Integrated Mobility Program Manager. Gillett leads Cal-ITP, a California-based initiative to make riding by bus and rail simpler and more cost-effective—for public transportation providers and riders—by standardizing trip-planning information and modernizing fare collection systems.

All four agencies purchased payment acceptance devices manufactured by SC Soft, one of the hardware vendors awarded an MSA by the California Department of General Services (DGS).

For transit processor services—the fare calculation software that allows for pay-as-you-go “fare capping,” enabling transit customers to pay as they go up to “capped” amounts equivalent to the cost of a daily, weekly, or monthly pass—the transit agencies contracted with Littlepay. Two of the four agencies have already enabled fare capping, with HTA providing riders with daily, weekly, and monthly capping and MTA activating daily capping on its routes.

And for payment processing—the secure back-end service that transmits fares from riders’ tapped bank cards and smart devices to transit providers’ bank accounts—the agencies contracted with Elavon, a company with which the State of California has an MSA for Electronic Payment Acceptance Services (EPAY) for California-based government agencies. In addition to enabling riders to tap to pay on fixed-route buses, the agencies are the first in the state to roll out open-loop payments on their dial-a-ride services. Through a six-month demonstration project with Felix Payment Systems, the agencies introduced open-loop digital payments on their dial-a-ride services by allowing their riders to tap their contactless bank cards or mobile wallets on NFC-enabled tablets.

About Cal-ITP

The California Integrated Travel Project (Cal-ITP) was established by the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) and California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to both improve and encourage the use of multimodal travel throughout California—by enabling contactless open-loop payments, standardizing information for easy multimodal trip planning, and automating customer discounts (Cal-ITP Benefits). Over the past two years, Cal-ITP successfully led contactless open-loop contactless payment implementations in California on Monterey-Salinas and Santa Barbara buses; Sacramento light rail; intercity passenger rail between Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area; on-demand transit vans; and LAX’s FlyAway bus, which connects airport passengers to commuter rail.

Learn more at calitp.org and on @California_ITP on Twitter, or by subscribing to the Caltrans Mobility Newsletter. And visit Cal-ITP’s CAMobilityMarketplace.org for a catalog of code-compliant products and services for public mobility providers, including contactless payment acceptance hardware and software and competitively priced cellular data plans.

For more information—or to tap Cal-ITP’s free technical assistance—reach out to [email protected].