02 Sep 2021

Sacramento rolls-out open-loop contactless payments on light rail

‘Tap to ride’ system is the first in California on a light rail network

Littlepay is pleased to announce its role as transit payment processor for a contactless ticketing demonstration on Sacramento Regional Transit District’s (SacRT) light rail network. The rollout, in collaboration with CalSTA’s and Caltrans’ California Integrated Travel Project (Cal-ITP), began on the Green Line in late June and has now been extended across all light rail trains.

Plug-and-play system

For this demo, transit-focused payment service provider Littlepay is handling payment processing at the heart of an end-to-end solution. Its modular, API-based payments platform plugs-and-plays with pre-integrated, ‘Littlepay Ready’ validators, back offices, payment gateways and acquiring banks.

In this instance, card validation technology is supplied by SC Soft and Feig; while payments management platform Cybersource, a Visa solution, provides a connection to Elavon U.S. for acquiring services. The modular system enables SacRT and Cal-ITP to roll-out a tap-to-pay solution quickly and cost-effectively without complex integration with existing legacy closed loop systems.

“We are always looking for ways to use innovative technology to make using transit easier and more convenient for the community,” said SacRT General Manager/CEO Henry Li. “These devices allow someone to use the same form of payment for their light rail ride and their coffee, simply tap and ride.”

Just tap and ride

Riders using SacRT’s light rail trains can now tap-to-pay for light rail fares with a contactless credit, debit, prepaid card or digital wallet. There’s no need to stand in line to buy a ticket, or reload a fare pass; they can just tap a card reader as they board. In less than a second, a green check mark will indicate their card has been validated for fare payment and they can take a seat.

To celebrate the new contactless fare option, SacRT is offering $1 fare for single rides on light rail during the month of September 2021. In addition, when tapping to pay, a light rail rider’s daily fare charges will be capped at $7—the same value as the Sacramento region’s Connect Card Daily Pass—no matter how many times they ride light rail. This means they can pay as they go until they hit this daily maximum when using the same contactless bank card or mobile wallet throughout the day.

Going forward, the agency is looking into more ways to bring value to riders using the contactless system, such as discount fare options. Simple fares and automatic fare caps are compelling benefits of tap-to-pay transit, bringing riders a hassle-free payment experience with guaranteed best-price fares. Other advantages include the convenience of using the same contactless payment method for transit as you do for shopping or eating out. With contactless card issuance skyrocketing and adoption of contactless payments fast-tracked by the pandemic, tap-to-pay for public transit makes sense.

California’s state-wide goals for transit

The California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) and California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) are supporting the demos through their California Integrated Travel Project (Cal-ITP) initiative. Cal-ITP aims to make it easier to use public transportation by improving trip planning and simplifying payments across transit modes and services in the state. Easy-to-use contactless payment options are vital to reaching these goals.

The SacRT rollout follows the successful launch of the state’s first contactless payments demonstration on Monterey-Salinas Transit buses in May. Two further demos are now running in Santa Barbara, on the Clean Air Express, Santa Barbara County Association of Governments’ (SBCAG) commuter bus service, and on buses operated by Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District (SBMTD).

We’re excited to be on the team that’s bringing payment innovation to transit agencies and riders in California. The series of demonstrations we are involved in will provide proof points of the positive impact of open-loop contactless systems. Not only do they provide cost efficiency for transit agencies, they also improve passenger experience.

Amin Shayan, CEO of Littlepay
Brian Frank, GM North America Transit at the launch of 'Tap to Ride' in Sacramento.jpg

Brian Frank, General Manager North America Transit at Littlepay, attends the launch of contactless payments in Sacramento.


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