Riders aboard an Altamont Corridor Express commuter train in San Joaquin County. ( Altamont Corridor Express )

More than a half-dozen bus operators and a regional rail provider in California have consolidated trip-planning and fare payment under one mobile app, signaling a trend in transit that merges operators and travel modes into one seamless tool. 

Public transit bus operators in San Joaquin County and the Altamont Corridor Express, a regional commuter train connecting the state’s Central Valley to the Bay Area, have merged trip-planning and ticketing under the Vamos Mobility app. The deal was facilitated by the San Joaquin Council of Governments (SJCOG) and Masabi, a transportation technology provider. 

Built into the Vamos app is EZHub, a fare payment tool that allows riders to purchase and store digital tickets for any of the participating transit agencies. The new platform went live in November. 

“This is the start of a trend that we’re going to see more and more across North America, and envisioning a significant expansion across California,” said James Gooch, head of marketing for Masabi. The platform is “multi-tenant” and is known as fare payment as a service (FPaaS).

The product offered by Masabi and adopted by San Joaquin County did not require various individual transit operators to develop digital fare payment systems or invest in sophisticated back-office technologies. 

“By directly integrating ticketing into a [mobility-as-a-service] app, you remove any friction or issues with the business model of the transit agencies,” said Gooch. “So this is really more where we’re seeing the MaaS app market going, is a more practical MaaS approach.” 

The San Joaquin Council of Governments views the cross-agency transit development as just the beginning of gathering other mobility providers under the EZHub tent. 

“This is the beginning of something huge,” said Diane Nguyen, deputy director of planning, programming and project delivery with SJCOG. “The San Joaquin Council of Governments had a vision to have the EZHub being more than San Joaquin public transit. This is Step One. The other steps involve us reaching out to our neighboring counties.” 

The region is also growing other mobility options. SJCOG was recently awarded a $7 million grant by the California Air Resources Board to launch a 100-e-bike-share program as well as an electric car-share program in the county, which will bring in 30 EVs for public use in Stockton.  

“As part of that grant we plan to integrate the fare payment system of those electric bikes and electric cars into EZHub,” said Nguyen. 

SJCOG also wants to reach out to ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft to see how to grow partnerships with these companies as well. 

“By expanding EZHub to include electric bikes, electric cars and other private services, we’re hoping to provide micro-mobility options that address first and last mile, and therefore create a synergy of more interest in riding transit,” said Nguyen.

This article first appeared in Government Technology, sister publication of Techwire.