Recently, while waiting for a bus at my local bus shelter (read: a fire hydrant on Grand Avenue in St. Paul), I was approached by a woman who asked how she could buy a multiday transit pass.
An experienced traveler, she was staying in St. Paul while attending a biology conference at the University of Minnesota.
Because my employer subsidizes my Go-To card, which is like a credit card with unlimited trips, I had no clue what to tell her. Plus, I don't often think of the Twin Cities as a tourist destination — even though some 31 million people visited in 2014 — because I live here.
Turns out, visitors to the Twin Cities have a number of options for short-term transit passes. There's a Go-To Lite Card, which gives you 10 rides for $18.50. And there's a $6 day pass for unlimited rides over a 24-hour period.
The issue, at least in my mind, is where you can actually buy these passes. You can purchase them online at www.metrotransit.org. Some are available on light-rail station platforms. Metro Transit also has stores at 719 Marquette Av. S. in Minneapolis, and at U.S. Bank Center in St. Paul. More than 100 retailers throughout the Twin Cities, such as Cub Foods, also sell passes.
I encountered a little weirdness searching the Metro Transit website, which could be user error. If you are visiting the U, the website directs you to Coffman Union to purchase a Go-To pass. But when you plug in the Go-To Lite pass, you're sent to the Commuter Connection skyway outlet in U.S. Bank Plaza. I'm not sure why there's a difference. If you're visiting Macalester College, you're directed to the University of St. Thomas for the Lite pass, a Rainbow store for the Go-To card.
A solution might be to offer a smartphone app, where your phone essentially becomes your ticket. A number of metro areas, including northern New Jersey, Dallas and Portland, Ore., have launched such a service, according to the Atlantic magazine's CityLab website.
Metro Transit spokesman Howie Padilla said the transit agency is exploring mobile apps.