Beyond If Beyond If

How This Transit Agency Hopped into the Digital Age with Electronic Payment

What if we showed you how Jacobs helped the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) move into the next generation of transit fare with a hassle-free account-based fare payment option that’s bringing savings and smarter travel?


From airports and movie theaters to police departments and sporting events and concerts, paper is out and technology is in when it comes to ticketing.

While the internet made getting tickets to your next show or trip easier than through the mail or at will-call, mobile-based ticketing/fare payment systems make getting what you need and where you need to be even easier. For those with a lead foot, the shift has even made the unfortunate speeding ticket experience snappier.

Many a traveler have experienced the moment of panic felt when a ticket is misplaced, even for a second, but thanks to mobile and electronic fare payment, gone are the days when losing or accidently tossing out your ticket could keep you from your travel (looking at you, Home Alone’s  Kevin McCallister).

Set to account for more than one in two ticket transactions on digital platforms by the end of this year according to a report from Juniper Research, digital ticketing (mobile and electronic-based) translates especially well to the transportation market because of the high frequency and volume of trips across mobility platforms.

Attractive public transit systems are essential to mobility and city livability. Recent studies in the U.K. showed that people’s wellbeing goes up by about 10% if they have access to good public transport. Because trends indicate that a growing number of people are electing to use their phones to purchase metro and bus tickets in nearly every large U.S. city, major cities and hubs need to hop on the digital trend soon if they haven’t already – or risk losing ridership in favor of other options.

But what if we showed you how Jacobs and TriMet, Oregon’s largest regional transit agency, embraced the digital revolution by implementing an electronic fare system that’s connecting riders with a smarter, quicker way to ride in one of the country’s most transit-friendly locations?

  • $ 850 K

    in open payments annually (and counting)

  • 24.5 M

    Hop card taps annually (and growing) and 72,000+ Taps per month using Hop virtual card (and rising)

  • 1 st

    virtualized transit fare cards within Apple and Google wallets, in North America and globally, respectively

  • 15 %

    cash fares paid in 2019 (a reduction from 23% in 2018)

“A modern eFare payment system provides transit riders with multiple ways to quickly and conveniently pay their fare, all of which are far more secure than their paper or cash-based alternatives. They also provide on-the-go transit riders with convenient ways to purchase fares and manage their transit fare accounts via their mobile devices. Finally, modern payment systems can help transit agencies to reduce operating costs through lower equipment maintenance and reduced cash handling, and data generated from the eFare system provides agencies with an extremely valuable service planning tool that enables them to focus service enhancements where they are needed most.”

Brin Owen

Jacobs Transit Fare Collection & Payment Systems Leader

Getting around in the Pacific Northwest

When the U.S. Pacific Northwest – Oregon, Washington and Idaho, and usually Montana and Wyoming – boomed in population during the 1990s, its growth increased at nearly twice the rate of the rest of the country and 50% faster than the global population. All those people needed to get around, to work and school and to recreational, medical and retail opportunities, and public transit agencies answered, bringing the region some of the most lauded public transit systems in the country, thanks to the progress particularly in Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington.

Today, this portion of the region’s residents are driving nearly 25% less than similar sized U.S. metro regions and even those who own a car are making different choices about how to get from point A to point B.

In Portland, Oregon TriMet provides over 97 million rides, across buses, commuter rail, light rail and paratransit service each year. Across the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington, C-TRAN adds another six million annual rides. While 86% of TriMet riders do own a car, they ride public transit by choice.

To ensure public transit continues to be a smart, efficient choice for tomorrow, TriMet made the decision to make the leap into the digital age and brought in Jacobs to assist with plans for a new way to bring transit fare payment across the region into one easy-to-use, smart system.

Hopping onto the digital transformation journey

TriMet HOP app

Since 2012, TriMet has been working with partners, including our payment systems experts, to develop its new, regional account-based, open payment electronic fare system called Hop Fastpass®. Hop Fastpass replaces most paper ticketing across the region, and allows riders of TriMet, C-TRAN and Portland Streetcar to pay their fares using bank-issued credit and debit cards, agency-branded smartcards, smart phones, wearables and chip-enabled tickets, distributed from vending machines. In addition to providing customers with a more convenient and secure way to pay, Hop is expected to lower fare evasion and reduce costs associated with ticket vending machines, cash purchases and collection processing.  It’s also providing the three transit operators with valuable information about how customers use their services which in turn will be used to enhance service planning.

Jacobs is the prime consultant for the planning, design, procurement and implementation of the Hop system, which officially launched in 2017.

During Phase 1, we provided technical and management services in support of planning and design of the new system, including development of a concept of operations, procurement alternatives, cost estimates, partnership agreements and technical specifications. During the second phase, we provided support for procurement, vendor selection, test witnessing and installation oversight – and we continue to support system expansion and enhancements.

Offering an improved ride for tomorrow

The Hop Fastpass system is globally recognized for its improvements to transit fare payment. The program established many industry firsts that other agencies are now using to model programs of their own – but what exactly makes it so great?

  • It’s a safer, more convenient way to ride. Hop Fastpass is a faster and more secure way to pay for transit services. Riders simply tap their Hop card, mobile device or contactless credit/debit card when they board. There’s no personal or financial information stored on a Hop card – whether a plastic or a virtual card – all personal credit or debit information is stored securely within a third-party bank processor.
  • It’s a smart way to save. The electronic, account-based system allows for fare capping. Customers enjoy the benefits of daily and monthly passes without needing to purchase the pass in advance and incurring an upfront cost. With Hop, you earn passes as you ride. Take two trips, more than 2 ½ hour apart and tap each time – and you earn a day pass. If you spend the equivalent to the cost of a month pass – you ride the rest of the month for free! Most importantly, riders never pay for rides they don’t take.
  • It keeps all pertinent information at your fingertips. Hop Fastpass provides real-time communications across all nodes of the system including wirelessly connected card readers, mobile fare inspection devices, website and mobile app to reliably provide customers with current and accurate information.

In 2018, Hop became the first system-of-its-kind globally to work with Google to allow customers to pay their fares using a virtual transit fare card within Google Pay and in mid-2019, Hop achieved another first in launching a virtual fare card in Apple Wallet. Our team helped facilitate the initial discussions and design meetings with both Google and Apple to create the first virtualized transit fare cards within each platform.

What’s next for Hop Fastpass? TriMet plans to phase out most non-Hop paper and mobile tickets by the end of this year as the agency connects people with their community, while easing traffic congestion and reducing air pollution, ultimately making the Portland/Vancouver region an even better place to live.

Interested in learning more about how Jacobs transforms intangible ideas into intelligent solutions for a more connected, sustainable world?

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