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Data Suggest Transit Riders Like New MTS Fare Options

Two transit riders stand in front of a ticket vending machine at the 12th and...

Photo by Kris Arciaga

Above: Two transit riders stand in front of a ticket vending machine at the 12th and Imperial trolley station, Dec. 26, 2017.

Year-end data from the Metropolitan Transit System suggest two new fare payment options introduced in 2017 are quickly catching on with public transit riders.

Compass Cloud, the mobile ticketing app launched by MTS in late March, has pulled in approximately $2.5 million in transactions in its nine months of operations. Those numbers were likely boosted by a $100,000 marketing campaign that included digital, radio and print ads.

MTS spokesman Rob Schupp said Compass Cloud was launched out of an acknowledgment that a cumbersome fare payment system can be one reason why some people may choose not to ride transit — especially those who have never ridden before.

"Adding convenience to the ticket buying process is very important for public transportation," Schupp said.

The app is on track to exceed MTS's goal of having 3 percent of ticket sales come through mobile ticketing, he added, though it is too soon to tell whether the app is drawing in new riders.

RELATED: MTS Hopes Bus Route Overhaul Will Buck Ridership Decline

In late June, MTS launched Compass Cash, its long-awaited "stored value" function that lets riders load virtual money to their fare cards.

In six months of operations, Compass Cash has drawn in about $305,000. Riders have spent $217,000 of that balance, mostly on one-way tickets. Previously those fares could only be paid for in cash with exact change.

Schupp said Compass Cash likely appeals most to transit riders who are familiar with the system but only ride occasionally. He said Compass Cash has not had a dedicated advertising budget, but that MTS would be promoting it more in the run-up to next year's Padres season.

Compass Cash was implemented only after a campaign by the nonprofit transit advocacy organization Circulate San Diego. The group's executive director, Colin Parent, said the data were good news.

"MTS should take a victory lap for the success of their new fare payment options," Parent said in an email. "In only six months, MTS sold more than 79,000 one-way trips with stored value Compass Cash. This shows a significant demand for options to pay for one-way trips, which unfortunately the Compass Cloud app still does not allow."

While Compass Cloud does have the capability to offer one-way tickets, Schupp said those would likely not be available until MTS undertakes a more comprehensive simplification of the fare structure. Currently, MTS is one of very few big-city transit systems in the country that does not offer free or discounted transfers between bus routes.

The Metropolitan Transit System added two fare payment options in 2017 in an effort to make the system more convenient. Early data suggest the efforts are paying off.


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Andrew Bowen
Metro Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover local government — a broad beat that includes housing, homelessness and infrastructure. I'm especially interested in the intersections of land use, transportation and climate change.

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