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.