Huntsville Public Transit adding app-based pay system
Published on November 18, 2021
A pilot program coming to Huntsville Transit will make it easier for smartphone users to ride while also providing a contactless payment method for operators.
The City of Huntsville presented an agreement at the Nov. 18 Huntsville City Council meeting that will allow riders to purchase fares through an app called Token Transit. The free app will allow riders to purchase single-ride Orbit or Access tickets up to monthly passes through the App Store or Google Play.
“This gives riders more options to get on the bus,” said Quisha Bryant, Director of Parking and Public Transportation. “In the world we’re living in, people want to use an app, and they have their phone in their hand when they get on a bus.”
She said the program is a win-win for the City because it doesn’t replace anything. Operators will continue to accept tickets, cash and coins from riders.
Partnership with UAH
The City learned about Token Transit from the University of Alabama in Huntsville’s Office of Public Transportation, which partners with the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA). After securing a COVID-19 Transportation Research Demonstration Grant, UAH explored how a touchless fare system could reduce health risks for both patrons and operators.
Transit Manager John Autry said UAH approached Huntsville Transit because it needed to test a contactless payment system that, if successful, could provide a model for urban and rural transit agencies statewide. He added the UAH team evaluated many different types of contactless fare payment systems and found Token Transit to be the simplest for customers and for operators to understand and implement.
There are no startup, hardware or software costs associated with the app. In the agreement approved by Council, Token Transit will retain 10% of fare purchases. UAH will then reimburse Huntsville Transit for Token’s 10%, up to $5,000 during the pilot term.
“UAH would like for us to have a successful pilot project, and then roll it out to small urban and rural transit systems across the state,” Autry said.
How it works
The app allows customers to pay fares without having to keep up with tickets or passes or search for currency. Likewise, operators don’t have to handle tickets or verify the correct fare was placed into the farebox.
“The tickets and passes are electronically stored within the mobile app,” Autry said.
Once Huntsville’s fare products are added to the system, they will be active for Huntsville smartphone users. After downloading the app, riders will be able to purchase a fare and confirm their choice. When ready to ride, they will tap the pass to activate it, then show the operator their digital ticket on their smartphone.
The app will only work on Orbit and Access buses and not Greyhound, which has its own app.
“There will be training with all our employees prior to rollout, starting with our bus and paratransit operators,” Autry said.
Autry said the app not only makes buying tickets and passes easier for riders, but it also enables employers, colleges and universities to buy tickets in bulk to send directly to individuals via text message.
“You can combine the student populations of Alabama A&M, Drake State, Calhoun Community College and UAH along Orbit bus routes 7 and 3 and connect over 20,000 students with bus service to downtown and Bridge Street Town Centre,” he said. “A universal student or semester pass purchased in bulk by each partner school, college or university could be a game-changer for students who may not have their own transportation.”
The City expects Token Transit will be available to Huntsville riders by early 2022. For more information, visit TokenTransit.com.