by Josh Capps
If you’ve ridden a TriMet bus, chances are you received your pass on flimsy sheets of newsprint with a multitude of punched holes and cryptic codes. The printed pass has been TriMet’s ticketing system for decades. However, this year TriMet is upgrading their system to, “produce studier, more legible two-hour tickets and day passes.” Currently in the testing phase, TriMet is analyzing the new fare collection system and barring any serious glitches, plans to upgrade their entire fleet by July 1st at a cost of $1.5 million.
The new system requires a rider to insert funds into the farebox but instead of tearing off a paper ticket, the TriMet operator will press a button and up pops a more durable, legible ticket, expiring exactly two hours from the time of purchase.
Last fall when TriMet eliminated fare zones, the agency vowed to explore and introduce methods for validating tickets for the full two hours. With the old tear-and-punched system, the two-hour transfer wasn’t always a guarantee. “The time varied depending on the location of a stop along a route.”
|Traditional TriMet Farebox with Retrofitted Ticket Printer|
The benefit to this new method is a more straightforward and accurate system. Gone will be the days of the ticket that shorts a rider on the two hour standard, leaving little time for transfers or return trips. However, gone are also the days of the three or even four-hour transfer receipt handed over by the liberal operator who understands that two hours simply isn’t enough time for most round trips. This is especially true after peak hours, where the TriMet system has less frequent service creating longer interval spans for those riders who need to use a transfer. In order to offset the wait time during these hours, operators would compensate the rider with an extra hour or so of ticket time.
With the new system in place, discretionary fare time will be eliminated. “Two hours means two hours”, says TriMet officials. The organization boasts “the new system will be easier for operators and fare enforcers, and may speed up the boarding process for riders.” Many riders have expressed discontent and see the new system as more of a sales tactic to increase revenue rather than a service improvement. Those riders who exceed the two-hour range, such as riders who are traveling long distances or want return trips, will need to purchase another two-hour pass. Many argue the new system will force riders to buy two TriMet passes, which is of equal cost to an all-day ticket.
|Traditional TriMet Paper Transfer Tickets|
Others are curious why TriMet is moving from one antiquated system to another when they could leapfrog the older technologies and implement a modern ticket purchasing system such as a TAP cards or Smartphone technologies. They plan to. “TriMet will also be piloting a new mobile ticket system in the coming months.” The system has already proven popular as TriMet easily received the required 1,500 participants to beta test the future technology. If that exploratory program proves successful, the Smartphone payment method will appease the digital crowd while the regulated farebox system handles those riders who opt to pay with cash or individual tickets.
With the cost for the new farebox system and retrofitting the fleet, will the revenue increase for TriMet make the new system worth the investment? Considering the increasing cost of transit operations, one would assume any measure to streamline the ticketing process would reap benefits. Since the results of the new fare ticketing system won’t be fully available until after $1.5 million is already spent, TriMet and its riders will have to wait and see if the new system is truly worth the price tag.
Thanks to Max Scheideman for editing this post.
 TriMet testing new ticketing system
 TriMet's new ticket printers may not be pretty, but they guarantee a 2-hour fare
 Riders and operators give the new bus tickets a big thumbs up!
 Transit Access Pass (TAP) Card Official Website