Metro Transit riders swiped their Go-To cards in near record numbers during February and accounted for more than half of all fares collected on light-rail trains and buses.
The 3.43 million rides paid for using the bright green cards and companion products such as Metropass and cards for high school and college students represented 54.7 percent of all fares collected during the year’s second month. That was a high-water mark for the agency and continued a trend in which more customers are ditching cash, tokens and paper passes.
As riders increasingly turn to the plastic cards with an electronic chip inside, some passengers wonder if products such as the SuperSaver passes and Stored Value cards will be phased out. Metro Transit says it has no plans to get rid of the paper prepaid fare cards and 31-day passes, even though they accounted for only 7 percent of fares in 2012.
“We offer a lot of different options for riders to try to meet needs and frequencies,” said Rachel Dungca, a senior project administrator in the revenue collection department. The SuperSaver cards are still popular with customers who are unsure how much they will ride and with social service agencies that help people with transportation needs, she said. SuperSavers will continue to be sold at its transit stores in downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, the Commuter Connection and at 70 retail outlets in the metro area.
But Tom Randall, senior manager of revenue operations, said the use of SuperSaver cards will drop even more as Metro Transit steers riders to the Go-To cards.
Metro Transit was one of the first transit agencies in the nation to use cards to collect fares electronically. Validators first appeared on buses and the Hiawatha light rail line in 2007 and expanded to the Northstar line in 2009. When the new Bus Rapid Transit line on Cedar Avenue opens in June, buses will have card readers at both the front and back doors.
In 2012, Go-To card users accounted for 48 percent of all fares collected. Another 28 percent used one-ride tickets and other types of passes, 16 percent paid cash and 1 percent used tokens. Randall attributes the increase in card use to the advantages that come with them. Among them is that riders can add value at any time online or at any of Metro Transit’s vending machines. It also allows customers to replace lost or stolen cards, or transfer balances from one user to another.
“You can’t do that with a paper card,” Randall said “If it blows away, you are out of luck.”
Card users also help keep buses on time by speeding up boarding, Randall said. Passengers simply swipe their cards across a reader, which calculates the fare and deducts that amount from their card, without having to stop at a fare box. That can help keep a bus on schedule, especially at stops where lots of people are boarding.
Another advantage, Randall says, is that Go-To cards can be used to pay fares on all modes of transit, whereas paper passes are not accepted on light-rail or commuter trains since they don’t have fare boxes to insert the tickets.
All Metro Transit passes — paper or plastic — can be used on Plymouth Metrolink, Maple Grove Transit, SouthWest Transit, Minnesota Valley Transit Authority and BlueXpress.
Follow news about traffic and commuting at The Drive on startribune.com. Got traffic or transportation questions, or story ideas? E-mail email@example.com, tweet @stribdrive or call Tim Harlow at 612-673-7768.