Un- and Underbanked Transit Passengers and the California Integrated Travel Project

Transit agencies are looking for ways to save costs and improve transit rider experiences. One strategy to accomplish this is to replace legacy payment systems that accept cash and in-network agency-issued tickets or cards with fully digital open-loop payments systems, which accept all debit, credit, and mobile payments and are more readily interoperable between different transit agencies and shared mobility operators. This transition will not come without confronting a number of equity and logistical challenges to ensure all riders benefit from this transition. The state of California’s California Integrated Travel Project (Cal-ITP) aims to help transit agencies make this digital payment transition. Researchers at UC Davis partnered with Cal-ITP to explore this question: how can California transit agencies modernize fare payment while ensuring transit systems are open and accessible to un-and underbanked riders? Researchers collected 200+ intercept surveys in the Davis-Sacramento-Woodland area of California to assess the potential for un-and underbanked passengers to use digital payment tools, such as contactless cards, and smartphone-based apps. This research finds that among unbanked riders who typically pay with cash, more than half of respondents would be open to paying with a prepaid debit card or a prepaid government-issued debit card, and about a third are open to paying with a mobile phone.