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Bus Fares From the GM Light Rail

Fare toolbox grows with introduction of new mobile app 

| Thursday, November 03, 2016 9:52:00 AM

Metro Transit's app allows customers to buy fares in advance and display them on a mobile device. From General Manager Brian Lamb

When people leave their homes, there are a few essential items they’re likely carrying with them, including identification, credit or bank cards and a mobile phone.                                                                   

Less likely to be in their pocket: a Go-To Card or the exact change it costs to board a bus or light-rail train.

Confusion about the fare and the need to have the right amount ready to board has long been a challenge for new or infrequent riders, sometimes discouraging them from using transit altogether.

Ticket vending machines that accept cash and credit cards at rail and rapid bus stations helped us begin to address this challenge. This week, we took another major step forward as we introduced a new Metro Transit app that allows people to buy and instantly use fares using a smartphone.

With the app, customers can purchase mobile tickets in advance and use them when they’re ready to ride. These customers will prove they’ve paid their fare by showing bus operators or police officers a screen with a unique, moving image that can’t be replicated or used after time has expired.

Created in partnership with tech company moovel, the app also provides access to our website’s most popular trip planning tools. In the future, it will give customers a simple way to let us know about immediate concerns and to receive alerts about the routes they most often use.

Operators and police have been trained to recognize valid mobile tickets over the last several months and a number of employees have successfully tested it in the field over the last few weeks.

Time will tell how the successful the app and mobile ticketing will be in attracting new customers, but there are several reasons to believe it will be a powerful tool. Consider:

    > Nearly 7 in 10 U.S. adults own a smartphone, and a third have used them to make a mobile payment. Our largest customer group, Millenials, are even more likely to own a smartphone and use it to make purchases. For many low-income residents, smartphones are the only reliable access to online resources.

    > The Twin Cities has become a top tourist destination, attracting more than 30 million visitors a year. An even greater number of visitors will arrive in the coming years for the Super Bowl and other large events. While special fare products that serve travelers have been introduced, mobile tickets are more immediate and convenient.  

    > About 72 percent of our website’s visits are from mobile devices and 16 percent of fares are sold through our online store. Use of a new service that allows customers to access NexTrip information by text message has grown exponentially since being introduced last June.

There are advantages for our operations, too. Cash-paying customers take more time at the farebox when boarding and face longer lines when buying tickets after large events. Customers who use mobile tickets will board just as efficiently as those using Go-To Cards.

While there are several clear advantages, the number of customers expected to use mobile tickets is likely to be small – we hope they will account for around 5 percent of all fare payments within the next year.

But getting customers to purchase their fares through the app on a regular basis isn’t really our goal. Instead, we want the app and mobile ticketing to move transit up on the list of options people consider when making a trip, eventually earning their trust so Go-To Cards become just as indispensable as their smartphones.

Learn More

Learn how to download the app, create an account and purchase mobile tickets at metrotransit.org/app 

Fares In the News

Wilken recognized with Distinguished Career Award 

| Wednesday, October 19, 2016 3:11:00 PM

Revenue Operations Supervisor Bill Wilken was recognized this week with the Minnesota Public Transportation Association’s Distinguished Career Award.Revenue Operations Supervisor Bill Wilken has seen quite a few changes since he began his career cleaning buses more than 40 years ago.

Many of them were of his own making, too.

After transferring to Sales Operations in the early 1980s, Wilken led the opening of the original Minneapolis and St. Paul service centers, the conversion to electronic fare payments, set up the Metropass program and launched Metro Transit’s original online store. 

He has also helped simplify fare products, expand Metro Transit’s retail outlets, introduce Go-To Cards and shepherd multiple fare increases (regular adult fares were just 30 cents when Wilken’s career began; today, adult fares start at $1.75).

For his efforts, Wilken was recognized this week with the Minnesota Public Transportation Association’s Distinguished Career Award. The award was presented at MPTA’s annual conference in Rochester.

“As much as I appreciate this award and as grateful I am for it, the greatest reward I have is the thank you I get from customers that we serve,” Wilken said in accepting his award.

Nick Eull, senior manager of Revenue Collections, nominated Wilken for the award. It’s not only Wilken’s effectiveness as a change agent that makes his career stand out, he said.

“Through all of this change and advancement of technology, Bill’s mission has always been the same – make it easy to pay the bus, and later train, fare, and treat those funds with respect,” Eull said. “From that goal he’s never wavered.”

Wilken said he’s been fortunate to work alongside many talented individuals. Beyond having a strong team, he said he’s found success by committing to process improvement, understanding what customers want and having clear goals.

“When I started, most fares were paid in coin,” Wilken said. “Today, we offer a whole host of prepaid transit fare programs. This evolution was achieved through the process of continual improvement with help from dozens of people.”  

More recently, Wilken has played a leading role in planning for and coordinating fare sales and crowd management at Target Field, U.S. Bank Stadium and TCF Bank Stadium.

Wilken lives in Chanhassen with his wife Marcia. Outside of his work, his hobbies include disc golf and flying. Wilken also ran a marathon at age 60 and has earned a red belt in Taekwondo.

The last Metro Transit employee to receive MPTA’s Distinguished Career Award was Maintenance Manager Silas Sharp, who retired earlier this year. Sharp was honored in 2013.

    > Awards and Recognition

Bus Fares Light Rail

Balancing the books between the farebox and the bank 

| Thursday, November 19, 2015 11:19:00 AM

A growing numbers of customers are using Go-To Cards and other passes to pay their fares without reaching for their wallets. But for many of Metro Transit’s customers, cash is still king.

Collecting, counting and quickly depositing all the bills and coins inserted into fareboxes and ticket vending machines is a daily task that requires a combination of manual labor, good accounting and appropriate safeguards.

The epicenter of this work is Metro Transit’s Central Counting Department, staffed by a team of revenue processing specialists who sort and stack piles of bills, feed mountains of coins through machines that organize them by denomination and weed out the unlikely debris that enters the mix.

“It’s a daily challenge to make sure we’re balancing the books and that everything comes out as it’s supposed to,” Revenue Collections and Processing Supervisor Abdul Ahmed said. “But we always do it.”

The longest-tenured member of the revenue collection team is Ian Stevens, who started as a coin counter more than 42 years ago and continues to begin the money-counting process each morning around 2 a.m.

“I had just gotten out of the service and I thought I’d get a few days to goof off but my wife said, ‘No, you’re getting a job,’” Stevens said. “This was the first place that called back.”

On a recent morning, Stevens pulled an orange metal bin up to a coin counting machine, releasing a small door and allowing coins to spill onto a conveyor belt. After rising several feet, the coins noisily fell through a cyclone of spinning metal that separated dimes, nickels, quarters and other denominations.

In about 20 minutes, 25,330 coins – including nearly 14,000 quarters – had fallen into cloth bags to be re-counted for verification and bagged according to U.S. Federal Reserve standards.

Removed from the mix was a 15-year-old Chuck E. Cheese token and several pieces of foreign currency that will eventually be exchanged. (Stored in a separate box is a collection of Pesos, Canadian dollars, Chinese Yuan, Euros and other bills from around the globe).

The machines used to organize the coins are new to the department but are very similar to those that were recently taken out of service after counting more than 3 billion coins over the last three decades. (Fun fact: that is more than enough coins to make a continuous roll from Metro Transit to the US. .Mint in Philadelphia, Penn., where the coins were minted.)

The recently-retired machines, slightly bulkier and less efficient, are waiting to go into storage and have been signed with wishful good-byes from staff in Central Counting.

Much of the other equipment used in Central Counting also dates back several decades, a reminder that while inflation has impacted the value of U.S. currency little has changed in its form or function.

The enduring quality of cash is why Central Counting is expected to remain a vital part of the revenue collecting operation at Metro Transit. Around half of Metro Transit’s customers now use a Go-To Card or pass, but just as many are relying on crumpled bills and loose change.  

In 2014, around $28 million was collected in cash fares, representing about a quarter of all fare revenue.

“Automatic fare payments are a convenient option for many of our customers, but we also know that a lot of people who ride still rely on and expect us to accept cash,” said Revenue Processing Manager Dennis Dworshak. “It’ll keep coming and we’ll keep counting it for the foreseeable future.”

    > Good Question: Why no sales tax on fares?

    > Good Question: Why does it cost more to ride during rush hour?

Car-Sharing Fares

Go-To Cards provide HOURCAR access 

| Wednesday, September 09, 2015 9:03:00 AM

Go-To Cards now have some additional utility for customers who use the local car-sharing service HOURCAR​.

Beginning this month, Go-To Cards and other automatic fare payment passes offered by Metro Transit will also provide access to HOURCAR’s fleet of cars and trucks.

HOURCAR vehicles are available at around 60 locations in the Twin Cities and can be reserved for local trips or up to three days at a time at varying rates. The car-sharing service began in 2005 and now has more than 2,500 members. 

To unlock an HOURCAR vehicle, customers must use a card embedded with a special chip. Through a U.S. Department of Transportation grant, the technology was updated so Go-To Cards can also be used to access vehicles.

“Allowing our customers to use their fare cards to access HOURCAR’s fleet provides additional convenience and reinforces the strong connection between transit and car-sharing,” General Manager Brian Lamb said. “We’re excited to offer this as an option to all those who are using alternatives to driving alone and vehicle ownership.”

Around 90 percent of HOURCAR members use transit, according to a recent HOURCAR survey. Around a third of members also said they began using transit more after joining the car-sharing service.

Car-sharing services allow transit users to reach locations where there is little or no service, and also makes it easier to forego car ownership. 

HOURCAR vehicles are strategically located near transit-rich areas, including the Lake Street corridor, several area campuses and in downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul. In 2014, HOURCAR added six new locations along the Green Line.

U of M students and staff with a U-Pass can get a $35 HOURCAR credit by registering before Sept. 30. 

    > HOURCAR: Unlock car-sharing with your Go-To Card

    > Star Tribune: Go-To Cards can now be used for both transit and car sharing

 

It's easy to use HOURCAR! from HOURCAR on Vimeo.

Fares Good Question

Good Question: Why no sales tax on fares? 

| Tuesday, January 07, 2014 9:26:00 AM

This 'Good Question' comes from Candace Seidl, who e-mailed to ask why sales tax do not apply to fares.

Similar to cab fares or parking fees, sales taxes are not charged on transit fares. Generally speaking, such services are not taxed in Minnesota.

While sales taxes do not apply to fares, they are a common source of revenue for transit agencies across the country and are an important source of revenue for Metro Transit.

Nearly half of Metro Transit’s operating revenue comes from the Motor Vehicle Sales Tax, which applies to new and used car sales. The Counties Transit Improvement Board, which provides around 7 percent of Metro Transit’s operating revenue, is funded by a $20 motor vehicle sales tax and a quarter-cent sales tax that has been levied in Anoka, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey and Washington counties since 2008.

Metro Transit’s other sources of revenue include customer fares, state and regional funding and federal grants.

    > Fares & Passes

    > Metro Transit Fact Book

    > Facts and funding for the METRO Blue Line

    > Facts and funding for the Northstar Commuter Rail Line

    > Ready, Set, Go-To

Bus Fares Good Question METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line METRO Red Line

Good Question: How much will it cost to ride the Green Line? 

| Tuesday, January 07, 2014 12:00:00 AM

The answer to this ‘Good Question’ comes in response to customer inquires about fares on the METRO Green Line.

Fares on the METRO Green Line will match existing fares on the METRO Blue Line, METRO Red Line and local bus routes. That means adult customers will pay $1.75 to ride during off-peak hours and $2.25 to ride during rush hour (6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday).

Seniors (65+), youth (ages 6- to 12-years-old) and Medicare card holders pay 75 cents to ride a regular route bus or train during non-rush hours. Those fares will also be unchanged for the Green Line. Customers traveling within Downtown Zones in Minneapolis and St. Paul will be able to ride for 50 cents. (See a complete fare chart here.) 

Fares can be paid with Go-To Cards, passes or cash.

As is the case with the Blue Line, customers transferring between the Green Line and a connecting bus route, Blue Line or Northstar train will be able to continue their trip without paying an additional fare provided it is taken with 2 ½ hours of the initial fare payment (additional fare may be required if a higher fare is required for the second portion of a trip). More than one-third of those who will ride the Green Line are expected to arrive by a connecting bus route.

Transfers are accepted from Metro Transit routes as well those operated by other regional providers (Minnesota Valley Transit Authority, Maple Grove Transit, Plymouth Metrolink, SouthWest Transit).

The fare structure for Metro Transit’s planned network of arterial Bus Rapid Transit Lines, including the A Line (Snelling Avenue BRT), is also slated to match that of local routes and the METRO network.

    > Fares & Passes

    > Good Question: Why offer transfers?

    > Good Question: Why does it cost more to ride during rush hour?

Have a “Good Question” that you want answered? Email it to goodquestion@metrotransit.org.

Bus Express Bus Fares Light Rail METRO Blue Line Metropass Northstar Promotions Ridership Student Pass University of Minnesota

Ready, Set, Go-To 

| Thursday, December 19, 2013 10:04:00 AM

Go-To Cards are the easiest way to pay a fare when boarding a Metro Transit bus or train – as customers are increasingly noticing.

Go-To and Go-To lite cards were used to pay for a record 57 percent of fares in November, and have accounted for nearly 53 percent of all fare payments this year. In 2012, Go-To Cards represented 47 percent of fare payments.

With a Go-To Card, customers simply touch a plastic card to an automatic card reader instead of using cash. The cards hold stored value, rides or multi-day passes that are automatically deducted. Customers can add value to their cards online or by phone anytime or at one of Metro Transit’s rail ticket machines or retail outlets. The cards also store transfers, can be automatically refilled and can be replaced if they are lost.

Go-To Card usage figures also include fares covered by program passes like the Metropass, U-Pass, Student Pass and College Pass, which offer unlimited bus and train rides at a fixed price over a period of time (e.g. a semester). U-Pass sales for the spring semester at the University of Minnesota are now on sale.

Metro Transit expanded the Student Pass program available to Minneapolis Public Schools high schoolers to South and Southwest high schools earlier this year. Through November, students have used Student Passes to take more than 1.4 million trips, a nearly 59 percent increase compared to the same period last year.

Ridership is also higher among customers participating in the employer-based Metropass program. Passes can be purchased pre-tax and some employers also subsidize their purchase. From Dec. 26-31, Metropass customers can bring a friend on regional buses, METRO lines and the Northstar Commuter Rail Line for free.

The widening use of Go-To Cards is aided by their expanded retail availability and the introduction of Go-To lite Cards.

Go-To Cards can now be purchased or refilled at more than 125 retail locations across the metro, now including all Cub Foods stores. New Go-To lite Cards, which provide 10 fares for a discounted rate, are also sold at retail outlets and in bulk to schools and social service agencies.

Go-To Cards have been available since 2007 and can be used on any bus trip operated by all regional transit providers, as well as the METRO Blue Line, Northstar and METRO Red Line.

    > Go-To Cards

    > Go-To Card User Guide

    > Cub Foods is your go-to store for Go-To Cards

    > Back to school with Metro Transit

    > Metropass

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