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Posts in Category: Fares

Bus Fares Light Rail Minneapolis Northstar

Metropass program reaches the 20-year mark 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, October 04, 2018 9:16:00 AM

Commuters exit a Metro Transit bus in downtown Minneapolis. Providing discounted, unlimited ride transit passes through area employers was a novel idea when the Metropass program began in 1998.

But twenty years after its inception, the program is attracting an increasing number of companies eager to encourage transit among their workforce.

Employees who work for participating employers can pay for a Metropass pre-tax through a payroll deduction. On average, companies kick in about a third of the $83 monthly cost.

When Metropass got its start, Minneapolis-based Ameriprise Financial and TKDA, a St. Paul engineering firm, were among the first to join. Nearly twenty years later, both companies continue to offer Metropass to their employees.

But they have a lot more company now. Around 37,000 employees from more than 360 employers now participate in the program. In 2017, Metropass holders took more than 12.8 million rides.

In October 1998, the first month the program was offered, Metropass customers took just over 90,000 rides.

Among those who ride with a Metropass is Janice Knight, an academic advisor at Capella University. Knight began using transit more than a decade ago to avoid costly parking in downtown Minneapolis. But there have been other perks to taking the bus. 

“If I didn’t ride transit, I wouldn’t have met neighbors who also ride the bus,” Knight said. “In fact, several of us get together to celebrate birthdays, happy hour and holidays.”

Metro Transit works with Transportation Management Organizations (TMOs) like Move Minneapolis to identify employers who want to offer Metropass.

Of the 30 companies added last year, 21 were in downtown Minneapolis, including Select Comfort Corporation, Kraus Anderson and law firm, Jones Day.

Move Minneapolis also worked with Thrivent Financial, a Metropass member since 2005, to significantly increase the company’s participation last year. Thrivent is building a new headquarters downtown, losing some parking spaces in the process. 

In St. Paul, the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, Minnesota Science Museum and St. Paul Hotel are among the recent employers to join the Metropass program.

The program appeals to some suburban employers, too. More than 300 employees working at Amazon’s Shakoppe distribution center are using a Metropass.

"Metropass is great for any metro-area employer," Revenue Operations Supervisor Lisa Anderson said. “There are so many benefits, like reducing the carbon footprint and handling the growth we're expecting to see."  

John Penland, Assistant City Attorney for the City of Saint Paul, is another longtime rider who appreciates riding with a Metropass. Penland regularly takes the bus between Mitchell-Hamline and downtown St. Paul.

“After a while, you meet the same people and it becomes a community where you can catch up with colleagues or friends during your trip,” he said.

  > Learn more about the Metropass program

Bus Fares

New fareboxes expected to speed up boardings 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Monday, August 20, 2018 2:40:00 PM

Metro Transit is testing new fareboxes that should help speed up boardings, marking the first advancement in farebox technology in 25 years.

“It’s time. We’ve been using the same fareboxes since 1993,” said Dennis Dworshak, Manager, Revenue and Fare Collections. “This technology represents a new generation of fareboxes that will save riders and operators time during the boarding process.”

The new fareboxes allow customers to swipe transfer tickets like a credit card, instead of feeding them into a machine. While preventative maintenance has helped keep the older fareboxes running, jams can cause delays or even force a bus to be taken out of service.

The new fareboxes can also automatically scan and validate bills and feature a larger and brighter screen. Operators will have more ability to put the farebox controls in a position that is most comfortable to them, too. 

The new fareboxes are expected to be installed across the fleet as funding allows. The new machines will also be included on all new buses. Tickets will be accepted by both farebox types during the transition.

A quarter of all bus customers purchase fares with cash and one-third of the time a local bus is in-service is dedicated to customer boardings. 

The on-board Go-To Card validators were replaced in 2016 and have proven to be more reliable than the earlier technology they replaced. 

Ultimately, the hope is that improved fare technology will make it easier for both customers and operators. 

“We hope this new farebox will not only decrease the time spent boarding, but also increase the ability of the operator to focus on driving and building positive relationships with riders,” Dworshak said.​

Customer feedback can be sent to Customer Relations

Bus Fares

Why are Metro Transit's fares going up?  

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, September 28, 2017 4:00:00 PM

Metro Transit's fare increase will take effect on Oct. 1Metro Transit’s first fare change in nearly a decade takes effect on Sunday, Oct. 1, and that’s raised several questions among customers. Here are answers to a few of the most frequently asked questions and comments that we’ve received.

Why are fares going up?

Fares have remained static for the past decade. But the past 10 years have also brought inflation and other factors that have lead operating costs to rise. As a result, fares now account for less than a third of Metro Transit's bus operating costs, a share that is common across the transit industry. The amount of money coming from the motor vehicle sales tax, a primary source of transit funding, is also falling short of expectations. 

The transit system has  steadily improved, too, with more light rail, rapid bus and High Frequency service and new waiting shelters, bus stop signs and real-time displays across the region. Maintaining buses, trains and facilities has become increasingly important, and costly, as the system ages. And Metro Transit’s police department has grown to improve safety and security.

Revenue generated by this fare increase will raise a modest amount of funding, about $7 million a year, to help support current operations as Metro Transit continues to pursue future enhancements.

What’s being done to support people who will find it harder to pay?

Fares should never be a barrier for those who rely on transit to access opportunity. To support those most in need, qualified, low-income residents can access discounted, $1 fares through the new Transit Assistance Program. Customers who think they may qualify can learn more and enroll at a Metro Transit Service Center or through one of several partnering organizations. Information is available at metrotransit.org/tap.

Metro Transit also provides significantly-discounted fares for individuals with disabilities, seniors and youth. In many cases, those discounts are more than half the full-priced fare.

Why is the stored value bonus going away?

Customers who put money on a Go-To Card will retain any stored value that was automatically added to their cards after October 1. This modest incentive -- $1 in added value for every $10 put on a Go-To Card -- was offered in part to encourage customers to consider using fare cards when they were introduced a decade ago. Today, nearly two-thirds of customers pay their fares with a Go-To Card.

If everyone who rode transit paid their fare, wouldn’t this increase be unnecessary?

Transit Police have already checked more than 1 million fares this year. Because officers regularly ride trains and buses, and repeat violators can be penalized or trespassed from transit property, instances of fare evasion are incredibly low. The costs associated with increased fare enforcement or limiting access to stations and transit vehicles is also significantly outweighed by the cost of the existing proof of payment system.

Free rides are occasionally provided to large events as a way of introducing potential customers to transit. These free ride offers also bring promotional value that often exceeds the cost of the free rides.

Why isn’t the transfer time being extended to reflect the increased cost?

Allowing customers to take unlimited rides for 2.5 hours on a single fare provides sufficient time to travel to and from almost any destination in the region without having to pay a second fare.

Customers who are taking multiple trips should consider using a pass product instead of purchasing individual fares. A list of passes and their prices as of October 1 is available at metrotransit.org/fare-increase.

Still have questions? Contact our Transit Information Center or Customers Relations Department at 612-373-3333 or visit a Metro Transit Service Center.

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

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