by Thea Marie Rood
Life is busy. But thankfully the days of carrying cash, having exact change, even entering PINs into machines, are becoming an amusing memory. We pay our rent, buy our morning latte and—now—commute to work with a tap of our mobile wallet.
Sacramento Regional Transit is in fact the first transit agency in the state to offer contactless payment for light rail—an option it touts as simple to use, but also safer and secure.
How does it work? Readers have now been installed in the front/back of all light rail trains. You just tap your credit, debit, prepaid card or payment-enabled device, such as a smartphone or watch.
“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 to ride.”
To celebrate the new contactless fare options, SacRT is offering $1 fare for single rides on light rail throughout this month. Beginning Oct. 1, daily fare charges will be $2.50 for a single ride and capped at $7 no matter how many times you ride—the same value as a Connect Card Daily Pass.
The new payment option is a collaboration between SacRT, Visa, Caltrans, Cybersource, Littlepay and SC Soft. It is part of a statewide initiative to improve and simplify the transit experience through the California Integrated Travel Project.
“Much of our goal is a more modern and consistent transportation experience throughout California,” said Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin. “Allowing riders to pay for transit with the same method they use elsewhere not only increases efficiency and mobility, but also reduces barriers to using public transportation.”
There also, of course, is the safety factor of a touch-free option, which has been foremost in people’s minds since the start of the pandemic. “Whether using a bank card, a smartphone or wearables, contactless tap-to-ride with our onboard validators provide a fast and secure solution to the new transit reality. Contactless is safer both for drivers and users alike in the current and post COVID-19 era,” said Sanjay Bali, CEO of SC Soft, one of SacRT’s collaborators.
If the contactless fare option onboard light rail trains is popular with riders—as SacRT suspects it will be—the agency will consider adding additional devices to buses and shuttles.
SacRT will continue to accept all current forms of payment. Riders who are eligible for a discount fare can still pay the discount fare with cash or card at the station fare vending machines, Connect Card or ZipPass. SacRT is working to enable discount contactless fares. For more information about the new fare payment option, visit sacrt.com/contactless.