Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Portland’s new ticketing system

with 16 comments

I do hope that as a regular reader of this blog you follow Human Transit on twitter (@humantransit). If you do, you’ve already seen this. But I think this deserves a wider audience, and I especially hope that my followers at Translink read it. Not because of what it is, but how it was done.

Before you roll your eyes, I am not going to take the line that just because it is done somewhere else it is necessarily superior to what is done here. Nor is it something that we could now adopt. Unless there is someway a smartphone can communicate with a proximity reader. But it does seem to me from reading the following two blog posts that there is something happening in Portland that seems better suited to systems our size than the big system, Cubic engineered gates and readers we have imported.

The first article “Joseph Rose: GlobeSherpa’s TriMet Tickets app rescues riders from the machines” explains why TriMet were looking for a new system – and how the beta testers found the new app working. The second “TriMet’s highly anticipated Tickets app ready for download (a day early)” looks at its roll out.

I look forward to reading in the comments section below a comparison with the experience of the beta testers of Compass. And no, I do not know if the TriMet system would allow for conversion of or three zone fares to fare-by-distance at some later date, which does seem to be the USP for Translink.

And I found some pictures of TriMet light rail cars from a visit I made there in 1998 – when the technology available for web pictures was considerably less advanced


Obviously it is well past time for me to go to Portland again, soon

UPDATE September 4

The Portland system official site

Compass/faregate introduction delayed or maybe not , but it is over budget.  And although Compass may not be available to everyone by then, FareSavers will still be gone by 1 January. All of this and more from Jeff Nagel in the Surrey Leader and other local press from the same stable

Written by Stephen Rees

September 3, 2013 at 3:39 pm

16 Responses

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  1. By allowing people to validate their ticket at anytime, it allows them to validate it only when a fare inspector is in sight…


    September 3, 2013 at 4:12 pm

  2. How does it compare to the Japanese cell phones that have the same chip as transit smart cards i.e. are loaded with passes and/or tickets plus an electronic wallet?

    I was in Japan in September 2006 and saw a young Japanese guy wave his phone by the railway station exit gates’ validator to open a gate.

    He walked to a convenience store next door to the station and my buddy and I followed him as our hotel was across the street and we wanted to buy some snacks.
    To pay for his purchases he waved his phone to a device by the cash register, likely using the electronic purse section to pay.

    I don’t know if the chip he had was actually not just a transit smart card chip but the chip for a multiuse card (credit card/ bank card/ transit card–with a choice of tickets or/and passes/ E-purse). They have been used in Japan for years.

    The town we were in was a small town (Saijō, well known for its numerous sake breweries), 35 minutes from Hiroshima by a train that zig-zag along a river in a bucolic valley,

    The French town of Reims (300 000 people in its metro area) only uses a multiuse card on its LRT system that opened in the spring of 2011. The card also works as a library card and allow access to other programs in the city. By now many of the user have likely a device by their home computer to load transit passes or /and tickets etc.
    They are planning to use cell phones too.

    Red frog

    September 4, 2013 at 11:03 am

  3. It has been a while since I was working in this field, and things change rapidly. The Japanese system is not – I think – available here. It requires much greater level of co-operation between the banks, payment systems (not always the same thing) cell phone companies and transit system operators than we have so far managed.

    I did notice on the Compass reader the logos of three payment systems – but that seems to have been an error that has since been corrected (photo here

    I am sure someone currently involved can chip in here 😉

    Stephen Rees

    September 4, 2013 at 11:09 am

  4. Hong Kong has been using a stored value card (Octopus Card) since 1997. It began as a bus and subway card, but grew so popular that many retailers and restaurants now use it, and it covers pretty much all forms of public transportation. A “personalized” version is available and that is used for the above payments as well as a security card for entry to some schools and residential buildings.

    New York’s MetroCard and London’s Oyster Card are similar.

    I think the comment about co-operation between the banks, payment systems, and cell phone companies identifies our problem.

    [Moderator: a fairly obvious typo has been corrected]

    Ric Day

    September 4, 2013 at 4:06 pm

  5. No, sorry but MetroCard in New York is magnetic stripe – also by Cubic and the same system as ours at present – so it is not quite as “smart” as Compass or Oyster. Paris also uses smart card concurrently with magnetic stripe tickets.

    Stephen Rees

    September 4, 2013 at 4:10 pm

  6. It’s called near field communication. It might not be quite ready for prime time because the English references in the article are trials.

    “Germany,[8] Austria,[9] Finland,[10] New Zealand,[11] Italy,[12] Iran and Turkey,[13] have trialed NFC ticketing systems for public transport. Vilnius fully replaced paper tickets for public transportation with ISO/IEC 14443 Type A cards on July 1, 2013.[14]”


    September 4, 2013 at 10:16 pm

  7. Quite a few towns–from major ones like Paris, Tokyo, Osaka (there are over 20 million people in the Osaka region) etc. to very small ones like La Rochelle, still use tickets and day passes with a magnetic stripe, besides a transit smart card.

    From the Transport for London site:
    “Save money with Oyster pay as you go
    Store credit and use it journey by journey
    Never run out of credit with Auto top-up
    Cheaper than cash for single fares

    Travelcards: Travel as much as you like, as often as you like—Add Travelcards to your Oyster card”

    Just below the lines above, one reads:
    “You need an Oyster card to:
    Use pay as you go and daily price capping
    Buy 7 Day, Monthly and longer period Travelcards
    You do not need an Oyster card to pay cash single fares or to buy Day Travelcards

    Day Travelcards are an all-day pass for a set price. “Daily price capping” on the Oyster means that if one makes a whole lot of short trips in one day, using the subway, buses etc. one will not pay full fare for all these trips, but only a set maximum equivalent to a Day travelcard (the price depends on the zones–obviously).
    Group tickets are also paper tickets with a magnetic stripe.

    While most, if not all, transit systems would likely prefer to have a smart card only, the fact is that it isn’t practical for infrequent users and tourists. Tourists may not mean much of a business for TransLink, but in Paris you are talking 35 million –or more–a year. Dito in other major towns.

    I read several travel blogs and tourists are really funny. They will rent a hotel room for $ 300 and call it a bargain, but they will complain at having to buy a transit card good for a week when they only stay 5 days.
    Not to mention than loading a transit app. in their foreign phone for a few days doesn’t necessarily appeal to them, especially if they will go to 3 or 5 towns during that vacation.

    Red frog

    September 4, 2013 at 10:48 pm

  8. Re: Compass delay denial.

    The picture on the surrey newspaper says it all!

    In the world according to Translink, the 96B line was operational in 2012, and even in 2000:

    Yes the buses were not running by that time, but they were already at the depot: so the 96B line was operational…(notice that using 14 years old buses on a flag ship transit route, can only happen in Surrey, new Excelsior are better to be used at shuttling students to Langara college)…


    As noticed by a wellknown prolific blogger, I am afraid that Translink digging a hole for itself.

    The Compass saga is more than a shame: Translink has choosen the route of the lies to cover its mistakes instead to humbly admit them, and once you choose this route, there is no reason to stop…

    Hi wonder, for how much longer time people like Gordon Price, will accept to defend unacceptable behaviors, in the belief they are supporting Transit…


    September 5, 2013 at 3:35 pm

  9. @Voony

    I do not understand

    Please provide a link to the picture and the surrey newspaper, as well as the original of the message you quote. It is not clear who you are quoting or what the story is about, so I have not been able to trace it

    Stephen Rees

    September 5, 2013 at 4:00 pm

  10. Stephen, being unable to post my own photos, here are a couple from Wiki to give you another taste of Portland:

    A streetcar will take you from downtown to the bottom station of this cable car on the South Waterfront district.

    The MAX4 cars are 29 metres long each, 58 metres + for a pair, with around 354 passengers. More at rush hours.
    By comparison the twin-set on the Canada line are 41 metres long and carry 344 passengers. Unfortunately for the MAX, there is a lot of space wasted by having 2 drivers compartment on each car, 4 in a 2 cars unit, with the 2 compartments in the middle never used. Guess some bright spark figured that they would only use 1 car at a time, not 2..

    One reader wrote in the Surrey Leader that LRT wouldn’t work in Surrey because it rains in Vancouver.. and never in London, Paris, Bordeaux, Hiroshima etc. and all the many other places where they have LRT?

    Red frog

    September 6, 2013 at 11:35 am

  11. I do not want anything resembling personal financial information or capabilities on my smart phone, because of the fear of (a) the phone getting hacked, or (b) stolen.

    Good old fashioned smart cards for me, thanks.

    Sean Nelson

    September 8, 2013 at 1:27 am

  12. Came across this video of fare evasion in San Fransisco:


    September 8, 2013 at 4:32 pm

  13. It would be nicer and more effective, if fare inspectors wore a plain sport jacket with a discrete pin. I don’t like these people wearing pseudo army uniforms..especially when they are out of shape..
    Honey always works better than vinegar…

    Yesterday–Sunday Sept.8, there were about 6 TransLink staff (the ones with a white shirt, not the cops) checking fares at the entrance of the Millenium Line at Commercial. 2 were actually checking, the others were chatting.
    No one checked the passengers COMING from the Millenium line…

    There are no ticket barriers on the Berlin transport network and inspectors, mostly in plain clothes, appear randomly throughout the day and can issue an on-the-spot fine for illegal travel (Schwarzfahren).

    Red frog

    September 10, 2013 at 12:03 am

  14. Marc Erickson

    September 14, 2013 at 7:26 pm

  15. But Vancouver BC does not resemble Hong Kong or Tokyo

    Stephen Rees

    September 15, 2013 at 12:04 pm

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