U.S. Transit Riders Give Thumbs Up to Contactless Open Fare Payments

Last updated: 19 March 2014

How many trains have you missed because you’re stuck in line waiting to a buy a ticket or to refill your fare card?  Even missing one is probably one too many.  If you follow the transit industry, you may have heard that several large U.S. agencies have announced plans to move to open fare transit payments.  Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SETPA), the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) of New York are a few of the latest agencies to announce their plans.

Open fare payment simply means using the contactless credit or debit card that you already have to pay for transit fares.  No more having to purchase a separate fare card, or making sure you have enough cash on hand.  The Smart Card Alliance has actually put together a resource page on open fare payments if you are interested in learning more – Transit Open Payments Resources.

Open fare payment is certainly a groundbreaking idea for the transit industry, and as with every major industry innovation, we wonder “how will consumers react to this new way to pay?”  In a recent MasterCard transit survey, the company found that transit riders are dissatisfied with the amount of time transit payments take out of their day, and are ready and excited to use contactless payment to directly pay for public transportation.

Some of the key findings of the survey (conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of MasterCard between November 21 and December 6, 2011 among 1607 adults across seven major U.S. cities) included:

– 65 percent of U.S. commuters who use cash for mass transit worry about not having enough cash on hand to pay for their trip

– 36 percent have been unable to take mass transit because they did not have enough cash on hand

– 44 percent have missed a bus, train or subway while waiting in line to buy or add money onto a fare card

– 75 percent of those who take multiple modes of mass transit each day wish there was one payment card that could be used to access all mass transit systems near or within their local city

– 66 percent said they would be likely to use a contactless form of payment to pay for mass transit if it were an option to them

– 47 percent said they would use their mobile phone to pay for mass transit

When asked about the benefits of using a contactless form of payment, riders estimated they could shave almost 11 minutes per day, or almost an hour per week from their commute.

From these results, it is clear that riders in the US want fare payments to be easier and faster, and they see open payments as a way to meet these needs, and these views are no doubt reflected across much of the world.  This is great news for the agencies that have already committed to open fare payments, and encouraging for those that are interested in making the move.  What do you think; will there be a day when we can use the same card to access all mass transit systems throughout the United States or even the world?

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