BRU’s E-Fare Alternative

Trimet’s New Electronic Fare System Doesn’t Serve Riders

fistsImportant update (2/16/2015): BRU is already winning victories thanks to transit-rider advocacy around the e-fare alternative. The information below represents the E-Fare Alternative that BRU approved in late 2015, and doesn’t reflect a few changes that we’ve won. Trimet has agreed to distribute 200,000 free cards during the rollout of E-Fare, and will let riders add a single fare at one location: the Trimet ticket office. We’re fighting to expand that option to other organizations. Trimet has also asserted that E-Fare cards cannot “go negative,” as we desire, but we’ll continue to advocate policies that prevent bus riders from getting stranded. Our remaining demands are not yet met, and we need you to get involved to win!

Get involved in the fight for better alternatives: call (503) 342-8910 or email

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Changes are Coming to TriMet’s Fare System in 2017

TriMet is about to roll out an electronic fare-collection system (“e-fare” for short), giving transit riders the option of using a prepaid fare card instead of a paper ticket. Instead of showing the bus driver a pass or getting a ticket, riders will tap a plastic card against a reader and have the fare deducted automatically. Smartphone users will be able to continue using TriMet’s mobile ticketing app.

Elimination of Passes

Because of BRU’s advocacy, cash will still temporarily be accepted on transit for day passes and 2.5 hour transfers. Paper monthly passes will be replaced with spending caps on your e-fare card. Once you’ve spent the equivalent of a day pass ($5) or monthly pass ($100), your card will stop charging you when you tap it for the rest of the day/month. Riders who cannot use e-fare will not receive this important benefit.

Card Cost and Access

Each e-fare card will cost $3, and each rider will need their own card. In addition, you must purchase at least $5 worth of e-fare at a time for each card. If the balance on your card is too low to pay your fare, and you don’t have $5 or access to a retail outlet, you must pay cash for a single fare. This cash purchase will not count towards daily or monthly fare caps. If a family of five is traveling together, they need to pay $15 for e-fare cards (5 x $3), plus a minimum e-fare purchase of $25 (5 x $5), and must keep track of the balance on each card. This is a hardship for low-income families, especially with young children. A free card for e-fare users during the initial rollout period and the ability to pay for multiple riders with a single card will help avoid or mitigate these hardships.

Retail Locations

TriMet has contracted with a limited number of private retail outlets like Fred Meyer and Safeway to provide e-fare services. However, many common retail stores—like Plaid Pantry—are not included. This network is confusing and poorly distributed. People will have to know which retail locations offer e-fare services, and will often have to walk a mile or more to load their card and get back to their bus stop. The current network also includes payday loan service centers, which have a predatory business model that exploit people with limited income. The network would serve riders more adequately if retail outlets were within 1/4 mile of all transit stops, and if the network included public facilities such as schools, libraries, post offices, and social service agencies.

Negative Balance

TriMet is currently refusing to allow riders to go to a negative balance on their cards. Riders with limited disposable income or those who live in areas without easy access to retail outlets are more likely to miss critical connections due to insufficient fare. Allowing riders to go negative by the cost of a single adult fare would avoid or mitigate this concern.

Rider Privacy and Enforcement

If one card is registered to one person, the information could be used to track when and where they are traveling. This could give law, immigration or private enforcement officers invasive, unjustified information as to the whereabouts of riders. In a fare enforcement situation, immigration status and any unrelated criminal records could be accessible.

Low-income Fare

Riders need a single reduced fare for honored citizens, youth, and low-income riders. The transition to e-fare provides a unique opportunity to do this.