I recently started using Metro Transit’s new app after my Go To Pass ran out of funds. It was an opportunity to give it a trial before refilling my pass. Here is my review.
Ease of Use
The biggest benefit has been not having to keep track of my card or make sure my card has funds on it. A number of times I realized I was out of funds on the card only minutes before leaving work for the bus stop. After adding more value on Metro Transit’s website, I would get to the bus to find out my new purchase was not available, leaving me to scrounge for change. I always have my phone and the fares are loaded immediately – no need to wait 24 hours.
For boarding, I just show the driver my phone screen, they nod, and push a button. A few drivers have commented that they like the app. No putting money in the fare box or scanning a card. It is only a second, but likely saves time for the driver.
Easy multiple fares are another benefit to the app. Multiple fare rides can be confusing on the Go To card. It always seems to annoy drivers when I ask for a youth fare or more than one adult fare. I often make mistakes when trying to purchase multiple train tickets at the stations. On the app, multiple rides just tap on the “Multiple Riders” tab and then choose which tickets to use. Drivers quickly recognize the multiple tickets.
If someone did not have a credit card (or a phone for that matter), they could not use the app, so that limits its use. I wonder if or how it could be used by social service agencies that purchase bus fares for clients. Could they pay for tickets on their client’s app account? The app stores your credit card information for future purchases. Could that agency’s account have different access so fares could only be purchased by the agency? If it could, it may be able to provide better accounting of fares purchased and fewer lost cards that need replacement.
The fares for the app are structured differently than fares on the card or cash. Rather than $2.25 rush hour and $1.75 non-rush hour for non-Express buses, the app has a weekday fare of $2.25 and a weekend fare of $1.75. The fare includes a 2.5-hour transfer, just like regular fares. There is also an all-day fare of $4.50 that offers unlimited rides until 2 a.m. the following day. The Go To Card offers a 10 percent discount, so my normal purchase of $40 of fare offers $44 in rides.
This new structure has made me rethink my purchases. I ride mostly non-Express buses during rush hour. For me, the all-day fare is the best deal on the app. Two rush hour, non-Express fares are equal to the $4.50 all-day fare. The Go To Card’s 10 percent discount basically gives me one free ride ($2.25) and $1.75 off the ride home, so it is a better overall deal to use the Go To Card with the discount. The all-day fare is a great deal if you are taking three or more rides during the day, which I have done when riding to work, then to a midday meeting, and then home. Any ride after two rush hour fares is free with the all-day ticket.
If someone rarely rode rush hour during the week and only took two rides per day, the app would cost more because there is no $1.75 weekday fare – single fares are $2.25 regardless of time of day. A rider would have to take three non-rush hour rides to save, which would be difficult considering there is a transfer included. On weekends, the all-day fare only offers savings after your third ride.
For an Express bus rider this app is a great bargain. If someone rides to and from work on an Express at rush-hour the all-day ticket saves them $1.50 per day.
There is a minimum purchase of $4.50, which is a single all-day pass or multiple single rides. The tickets do not have to be used right away, they can be stored for future use, but they do expire after a year.
The biggest downside, and it is a big one, is when the app is not available. I try to open the app and get a message that says it stopped working. This has happened twice in the month I have been using it. One time the driver just let me ride without paying, but the other time I was lucky to have enough change to purchase a cash fare. Reliability really matters here.
Overall, I have been pleased. It’s easy to use and the drivers seem to like it. It is easier to purchase fares and use multiple fares than the Go To Card. The fare structure may be the defining factor for how useful it is. For the very infrequent rider, it is likely easier than purchasing a card or making sure you have cash. For the daily rider, a monthly unlimited Go To pass is probably cheaper. A monthly pass option would be a nice addition to the app. My riding varies, with six or seven rides a month during the winter to a handful in the summer, so the all-day fare serves me well because I do not ride enough to make a monthly pass worth it.
I do believe the language regarding “weekday” and “weekend” fare is a goof up. You should be able to purchase a so called “weekend” 1.75 fare for off peak travel. In fact, I read in reviews of the new app that this is indeed what is happening. No need to spend money needlessly due to the language used in the fare list on the app.
I hope that’s the case, Jeremy, because I don’t want to pay $2.25 for what should be a $0.75 child fare during the week. Otherwise it seems like a nice supplement to Go Card. Particularly with the ease of purchasing to jets in different passenger categories, given that it can be a challenge to read the text on the fare readers at the light rail stations to get the correct fare.
The weekday fare is $2.25 regardless of time of day. There is a youth fare that is good anytime. Metro Transit’s website is down otherwise I would link and quote. I regularly use both the adult and youth fares in one ride.
The app offers only a $2.25 option weekdays for youth, despite the regular off-peak $0.75 youth fare when purchased elsewhere. I’d like the convenience of using an app, but that’s too steep a premium.
“Fares on the app vary slightly from the normal fares you may see at a Ticket Machine or farebox. Due to the technology powering the app and an effort to simplify the fares on the app, Metro Transit will offer only Weekday and Weekend versions of tickets – no rush hour or non-rush-hour pricing – for buses and METRO lines.
Weekday Fare: Valid from 2 a.m. Monday through 6:30 p.m. Friday
Weekend Fare: Valid 6:30 p.m. Friday through 2 a.m. Monday
All-Day Pass: Valid any day of the week from time of activation through 2 a.m.”
And, yep, I tried to use one of my youth fares and it told me I couldn’t. That is really steep.
Thanks for the review. I’d been curious about the new app!
I downloaded the app when it first came out, but have been continuing to use my Go-To card. Even so, I use the app because navigating route, schedule and NexTrip information on the MT website is pretty frustrating with a mobile device. The app is friendlier for this – despite the extra steps of having to click “Skip” on the login screen and tapping to open the menu for that information instead of already having it displayed.
When I started reading this I thought the multiple-riders feature would be great when I ride with my child. Paying for multiple fares on a Go-To card and then dealing with transfers is a confusing process. But if I can’t access the child fare, what’s the point? I would think the majority of multiple-fare situations involve parents traveling with their children.
(Side note about paper transfers: when riding solo I always use my card and don’t deal with paper transfers much, so I just recently learned there is a *separate* machine for reading those – why doesn’t the dollar bill reader also accept transfer tickets, as I’ve experienced with other transit agencies? 3 different fare-reading machines on each bus seems a little crazy).
I do like the All-Day Pass option, though. Maybe I’ll start using the app just for that. On days I ride, I do often end up taking a midday trip and paying 3 fares.
Thanks so much for the review, Dana.
As I told a friend, I would have really benefited from an app like this when I was in San Diego. I didn’t know enough to look and see if they have one.
From my convention center I wanted to go into downtown. Google maps showed that a bus would be the quickest way in, but I had no cash and didn’t want to buy a metro card (their version of a Go-To card). So I took the LRT instead, where I could pay by credit card before boarding.
Eh, I don’t mind refilling my card online once a month. I get a receipt, so in case I did forget to load it within 24 hours I just have it ready on my phone to show the driver and it’s one less app cluttering my phone. Now the Transit app on the other hand, I feel is a must for using mass transit and it’s good outside of the Twin Cities. I’m still amazed at how many people have smartphones but don’t know about that app and are standing outside waiting for buses that are 10, 20, or more minutes late.
These are pretty common in Europe where POP fares are the norm (Germany, Austria). I found them easy to use, but never took buses. Also day passes for city transit could be purchased through the national rail apps when you buy train tickets. Nice feature.
Your issues with the Go-to card are easy to fix – auto-payment when you get to a certain amount remaining (already in place. I use this and never think about my card, it always has $ and always works), or, the Ventra app in Chicago allows you to add $ to the Ventra card right from the app. It is one of the best transit apps out there that I have used. Also you can buy commuter tickets and pay for them with the $ on your Ventra card right from the app. Nice.
Another nice thing out there that could be done here: the Oyster card in London caps your payment for the day once you have spent the equivalent of a daily ticket. You do not have to decide before if it is a better deal or not, the computer gives you the better deal automatically.
My issue with the app is that it makes it easier to evade fares on the light rail. One could have a ticket purchased but only activate it when the police check fares. These kind of apps are best suited for longer distance travel, like commuter service, where all fares are checked, or maybe day/multi-day passes. Otherwise the card is easier and more reliable, though there are plenty of improvements to made with that.
Also, the app crashes on my phone. My Go-to card never crashes.