This story has been updated from its original version.
TriMet will soon join the electronic-fare card party, following suit of a growing list of cities like Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Called the Hop Fastpass, 250 people are in the first round of beta testing as the agency rolls out the new system. It will see official release in the summer, when Portlanders will be able to buy Hop cards at more than 500 retail locations.
For those who've ridden public transit in other metropolitan areas, it's likely you've observed busy bodies tapping a card as they zip through the subway or metro system.
That tap results in a monetary transaction as a way to speed up the process and give frequent riders less to worry about. Just load the card ahead of time, tap and away you go.
"We've talked with these systems and others, and have tried to take their best traits and combine them into one great system," says Angela Murphy, TriMet spokeswoman. "There's no need to dig for change or wait in line at a ticket machine."
Planning for the electronic fare system started in 2011, while construction work at MAX platforms laid groundwork for Hop starting in March 2015.
Since then, card readers have been installed on all MAX and WES platforms, and will soon be on VINE platforms. VINE is the region's first bus rapid transit system launched by C-TRAN. It also has been installed aboard TriMet and C-TRAN buses, and Portland Streetcars.
Murphy says that unlike other electronic fare card systems, Hop Fastpass is "account-based," where all the users' information is stored in a back-end system rather than actually on the card itself.
"It also will provide pay-as-you-go benefits for our riders, known as fare-capping," she says. This type of system is in use in European cities like London and Dublin.
This means that riders won't need to decide in advance which ticket will be best to use, or worry that more money was spent than needed.
Try the beta test
Not all features of the fare card are activated quite yet, but more will be rolled out as the beta test continues, leading up to the summer launch. Anyone can check it out and sign up to try it at myhopcard.com.
Beta testing will help the agency iron out any any lingering kinks in the system.
"Our team conducted rigorous alpha testing of the Hop Fastpass fare system over the past year, and now we're looking to this beta test to … determine what works well and what can be improved prior to launch," says Murphy. Not everyone will be chosen for the beta test, however. Slots are limited.
Those chosen as beta testers will be asked to test single-use Hop tickets and other "contactless payment devices" like a debit card or smartphone to pay the fare, as well as testing new mobile applications and website features.
TriMet's Angela Murphy breaks down the benefits for riders:
With Hop Fastpass, once you reach the cost of a Day Pass, (the same amount as two 2 1/2 hour tickets), the rest of the rides that day are free. Same is true on a monthly basis—once you reach the month pass' cost, the rest of your rides that month are free. For example, if an adult rides TriMet twice a day every day, the rides would be free after day 20, which is ideal for riders who want the benefits of a monthly pass without the upfront cost.
We are also vastly expanding the retail network where riders can purchase fares. Hop cards will be available at more than 500 retail locations, including supermarkets, convenience stores and pharmacies. Riders also will be able to load value over the phone, website, on a mobile app or at the TriMet Ticket Office.
Another benefit for our riders is lost-card protection. If a rider registers a card, their balance is saved in their account, even if they lose the card. Plus, they can easily transfer the value from the lost card to a new card.
Hop Fastpass will also support open payments. This allows our riders to pay with what they may already have in their wallet or purse, such as a contactless bank card, or by using a smartphone payment app such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay. Open payment options allow our riders to pay for 2 1/2-hour transfers and 1-Day passes, but they'll still need a Hop Fastpass card to take advantage of a 1-month pass.
This story has been updated to clarify that not all users who visit and sign up at myhopcard.com will be selected as a beta tester because slots are limited.