Applying an Equity Lens to Automated Payment Solutions for Public Transportation

As transit agencies modernize their fare payment systems, opportunities to pay with cash are reduced. This speeds boarding and lowers the cost of operations while also creating new sources of ridership data. Arguably, service is improved for riders as well, where payment systems work across modes, and in some cases different transit providers, creating a more seamless and simplified experience. Still, about 15% of adults in the United States are without a bank account or credit card account and many rely on restrictive cell-phone data plans or don’t have access to a smartphone. These shares are even higher for public transit users. As transit fare technologies move further from cash, these un- and under-banked and digitally excluded riders will find it more difficult to conveniently pay their transit fares. This project will research and evaluate practices to address equity issues in cashless fare payment systems. This project will catalog existing equity solutions implemented by public transportation agencies and review existing evaluations of impacts on transit riders. Equity solutions and impacts will be evaluated for different types of riders encountering different barriers in using fare technologies. Next, this project will develop two frameworks to evaluate the effectiveness of these equity solutions from a user and agency perspective. More in-depth case studies will illustrate how equity solutions work to address fare payment barriers. Finally, a specific analysis of cost effectiveness will highlight best cases to mitigating equity issues at minimum cost for agencies. To achieve these goals, this project will employ a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods. It will create a comprehensive review of existing practices and existing evaluations of those practices. The project will utilize existing data sets, including on-board surveys and data sets from automated fare payment systems to understand the barriers faced by riders and how they are currently addressed. The project will also develop new data using qualitative approaches, including interviews and focus groups with both riders and agency staff, alongside utilizing larger data sets from surveys and smartcard–related data. The project will produce a set of recommendations for best practice and least-cost approaches to mitigating and reducing barriers for un- and under-banked and digitally-excluded riders.


  • English


  • Status: Completed
  • Funding: $300000
  • Contract Numbers:

    NITC 1268

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

    University Transportation Centers Program
    Department of Transportation
    Washington, DC  United States  20590

    City of Eugene

    125 East 8th Avenue, 2nd Floor
    Eugene, OR  United States  97401

    City of Gresham

    Gresham, Oregon  United States 

    Lane Transit District

    P.O. Box 7070
    Eugene, OR  United States  97401-0470

    moovel NA

    209 NW 4th Ave #200
    Portland, Oregon  United States  97209

    Regional Transportation District

    Denver, Colorado  United States 
  • Managing Organizations:

    TREC at Portland State University

    1900 SW Fourth Ave, Suite 175
    P.O. Box 751
    Portland, Oregon  United States  97201
  • Project Managers:

    Hagedorn, Hau

  • Performing Organizations:

    Portland State University

    Urban Studies and Planning
    P.O. Box 751
    Portland, Oregon  United States  97207

    University of Oregon, Eugene

    Department of Planning, Public Policy and Management, 119 Hendricks Hall
    Eugene, OR  United States  97403-1209

    University of Tennessee, Knoxville

    Knoxville, TN  United States 
  • Principal Investigators:

    Brown, Anne

    Liu, Jenny

    MacArthur, John

    Brakewood, Candace

    Golub, Aaron

  • Start Date: 20190101
  • Expected Completion Date: 20200630
  • Actual Completion Date: 20210604
  • USDOT Program: University Transportation Centers

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01689556
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: National Institute for Transportation and Communities
  • Contract Numbers: NITC 1268
  • Files: UTC, RIP
  • Created Date: Dec 20 2018 4:13PM