Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Say Goodbye to Cash on The Bus

MCTS unveils mobile payment app. Bus riding may never be the same.

By - Nov 1st, 2017 06:39 am
Ride MCTS App

Ride MCTS App

You can now pay for a bus ride in Milwaukee with your phone. The Milwaukee County Transit System has unveiled a mobile application that allows users to purchase fares on their smartphone.

The app also integrates with two critical services for bus riders, Google Maps and the system’s real-time bus tracker. Users can leverage the app to get route directions anywhere in Milwaukee County and monitor the arrival time of their bus using the real time tracker. Those features are currently available in third-party apps, but users had never had the convenience of using their phone to pay for a ride.

Riders using the app will purchase their ticket before getting on the bus and then show their phone screen to the driver who will visually validate the fare. The drivers will be able be able to easily validate the fare by looking for a moving countdown clock and an animated graphic that includes a MCTS bus driving past Miller Park. The moving graphics help prevent fraud, with the day’s date also included on the display to ensure validity.

While weekly and monthly pass holders will still find value in the simplicity of using the M-Card to board the bus, the pass will be a boon for infrequent riders. Riders will no longer have to worry about having exact change ($2.25) or heading to a nearby store to load money onto their card. They can simply pay with a credit card, PayPal, Venmo or Apple Pay in the app.

Approximately 12 percent of riders currently pay for their fare with cash. Those riders can still use cash if they want, but will now have a much easier and faster way to board the bus. MCTS provides approximately 142,000 rides every weekday according to the system’s 2015 annual report.

Riders will be able to purchase 90 minute fares ($2) or day passes ($5) with the app. Additional fare types, including weekly and monthly passes, can be purchased using the M-Card.

The app was developed in partnership with Madison-based Tixora. The company first worked with MCTS in 2016 to help provide digital tickets for Summerfest shuttle service. In two years the Summerfest app has sold over 55,000 tickets.

The app is currently only available on the iOS platform, but an Android app is in the works and is expected in the coming months. To find the app in the Apple App Store, search for “Ride MCTS” or visit this app page.

For those seeking to learn how to use the app, MCTS has prepared a how-to guide.

MCTS leveraged a federal grant to support the development of the application, which came at the cost of $180,000.

App Demo

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9 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Say Goodbye to Cash on The Bus”

  1. David says:

    Very cool. It seems to me that even in the face of difficult financial times, the transit system continues to innovate.

  2. Jerry says:

    Maybe I am from the stone age but am I the only one that doesn’t assume that everyone can afford and iPhone and a data plan and is troubled by this increasingly becoming a gateway to access basic services? Also concerned about safety. I ride infrequently. When I do, I prefer to just pay the fare in cash. I don’t feel anyone is going to hit me at a bus stop for $2.25 but I have been held up at gunpoint for my phone.

  3. 36goingon80 says:

    This is great news! I lost my CVP last week and was scrambling for change while waiting for the replacement. I can see using this when friends are visiting, too. I’m especially excited about the google maps integration. Way to go MCTS!

    @ Jerry – Regarding data plans – no, not everyone can afford a data plan (though most companies these days seem to be offering unlimited data as the standard… so it’s slightly more accessible)… BUT it’s good to note that cash is still allowed. They’re not taking away something – but expanding services as technology evolves.

  4. D K D says:

    Fantastic! I can pay with cash if I have th eright change or by my phone. Love this.
    And I thought the bus tracking was great. (I still do) Now anxious for the street car. That and the bus is going to make so much more places accessible for me and everyone else who uses a mobility aid.

  5. Justin A says:

    How are people supposed to ride if they can not afford a smart phone? I noticed the same thing in the Third Ward. The parking pay stations were covered up so that people had to use the app to pay and that was the only option. So, you can’t park if you don’t have a smart phone?

  6. Eric S says:

    @Jerry – “Approximately 12 percent of riders currently pay for their fare with cash. Those riders can still use cash if they want, but will now have a much easier and faster way to board the bus.” This adds an additional payment option – it doesn’t remove one.

  7. Eric S says:

    Ugh. My mistake. That last comment should’ve been responding to Justin A, not to Jerry.

  8. A Bus Driver says:

    The transit system in So.Cal uses an app like this. Many people don’t carry cash & I have had people needing to get the bus to get somewhere but their car broke down or whatever. Cheaper than an Uber ride.

  9. Bus rider says:

    Why wouldn’t they make this come out for both systems (Apple and Android) at the same time. Most people can’t afford an iphone, so how is this helping the community.

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