The Equity Implications of the TriMet Fare App

The beta test for the TriMet fare app is winding down, and Joe Rose at the Oregonian has published a review of it.

I think the review is fair and pretty much reflects my experience as a beta tester as well.

It’s the headline that scares me: “GlobeSherpa’s TriMet Tickets app rescues riders from the machines”.

Now I make my living as a technologist, and process innovation is a big part of what I do, so I’m delighted that the fare app technology is becoming available.

But it does not excuse TriMet from making their ticket vending machines (TVMs) reliable!

I don’t personally use the TVMs much, I usually buy books of tickets over the counter at retailers. But clearly TVMs have been a huge headache for riders.

So if we “rescue” a subset of users from that problem based on their ability to afford an expensive smart phone, that’s a big equity problem. If a lower transaction volume on the TVMs due to smart phone use lowers maintenance cost, that’s great. But TriMet cannot be allowed to leave one class of users stuck with sub-par service.

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