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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

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.

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