There is some exciting news for Metro Transit riders who use the agency's app to buy fares. With the newest upgrade to be rolled out in time for Wednesday's morning commute, riders won't have to make a minimum $4.50 purchase.

And they will be paying the same price for a ride as those who use cash or swipe their Go To cards as new options that include weekday peak and off-peak fares along with a reduced rate weekend pass at $3.50 will be available. Fares for express routes have yet to be added.

When the app was first introduced last fall, customers were required to spend a minimum of $4.50 per transaction, or the equivalent of two peak fares.

"Probably more than any other aspect of the app, customers disliked that one the most," said Adam Mehl, a marketing development specialist. "There were just too few rides that cost $4.50 so it was like you had to buy two tickets."

At the outset, the app only offered a weekday fare of $2.25 good for rides taken between 2 a.m. Mondays and 6:30 p.m. Fridays and a weekend fare of $1.75 for rides taken between 6:30 p.m. Fridays and 2 a.m. Mondays. That meant app users were paying 50 cents more for a ride on weekdays if they used their electronic tickets to make a trip during a non-rush time when the fare is $1.75.

"That was not well loved," Mehl said.

Fares allow customers to ride for 2 1/2 hours. With cash fares, vending machine tickets or those using Go To cards, the clock starts immediately. With electronic fares, the clock doesn't start until the ticket is activated. Electronic tickets can be saved for up to a year, but some customers were unaware of that. Mehl said that might have kept people from using the app.

"They were saying I don't need two tickets. This is not helpful to me," Mehl said. With the new fare structure and no minimum required purchase, "that barrier is gone."

So far about 20,000 people have downloaded the Metro Transit app between January and April. Riders have used the app to buy 22,518 tickets which brought in $63,000 during those four months. April sales were highest with 7,963 tickets sold.

The goal is to introduce the app to more riders and hopefully get them to use it, especially visitors and those taking transit to special events such as Twins and Vikings games.

"We want people to get used to using the app now so they can avoid long lines, especially around Super Bowl time," said spokesman Howie Padilla, who noted that people using vending machines at last year's Super Bowl in Houston encountered long waits.  "If people are used to it, they won't be standing in line"

Train and bus riders who download the Metro Transit App from either the Google Play or Apple iTunes app store can also access schedules and route maps, plan trips and get real-time bus and train arrival and departure times.

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