Graham Kilmer

MCTS New Fare System Delayed to 2023

Delay will prolong the unpopular features of the transit system's new mobile app, but fare capping and other improvements await.

By - Aug 8th, 2022 03:52 pm
A Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) bus from Gillig. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

A Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) bus from Gillig. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) announced Monday that it’s moving the launch of the new fare collection system to next spring at the earliest, a delay from its planned 2022 launch.

And once it does launch, it will initially only be a pilot system. “Select social service agencies, Commuter Value Pass customers, U-Pass university participants, and MCTS employees will test the new system and provide feedback,” said the transit system in a statement issued Monday.

It will roll out systemwide later in 2023. MCTS plans to make any necessary adjustments based on the feedback it collects during the initial launch. The new system, called UMO Mobility Platform, built by Cubic Transportation Systems, was originally expected to launch this year.

Once implemented, it will give riders more options for fare payment, including contactless credit cards, a “smart card” similar to the M-Card, through the new mobile app or with cash at 200 retail locations around the county. These kiosks will feature multiple languages and include features making them accessible to the visually impaired.

The new mobile app was launched in April and received a rocky reception from users frustrated by the immediate fare activation, an interface many found overly complicated and incorrect bus arrival times. The live bus tracking has since been fixed, while the other issues remain.

Through the new mobile app, called WisGo, riders will soon be able to pay for fares using Google Pay and Apple Pay. For now, they must enter a credit or debit card.

Fares purchased through the app still cannot be saved for a future ride and will continue to activate immediately. The previous app, called Ride MCTS, allowed users to purchase a fare without it immediately being activated.

Riders also currently only have two fare options through the app, a $2 105-minute fare, or a $5 24-hour fare. Group fares can be purchased with M-Cards, which can be used until the new system launches.

Once the new fare system is implemented rider’s fares will be capped at the cheapest available option. “Through the Umo mobile app and contactless smart cards, riders will be able to create accounts that will automatically track rides, deduct the amounts from their online accounts, and cap total costs at the lowest daily, weekly and monthly rates,” MCTS said.

Cash is still an option for fare payment, and will remain even once the new system is fully implemented.

The transit system is attempting to transition to a new fare collection system along the same timeline that it will launch the East-West Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service. The East-West BRT project was recently delayed to 2023 due to disruptions in the global supply chain, project managers said in March. Construction of BRT infrastructure is expected to be completed this fall.

The service will run nine miles between downtown Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center in Wauwatosa. The route will run along Wisconsin Avenue and W. Bluemound Road. The line is intended to reduce travel times with high-frequency service, traffic signal priority and sections that include a dedicated bus lane. It will also include off-bus fare validators, reducing stop times.

The new fare system has always been tied to the BRT project, as it was purchased using funds from the $41 million federal grant supporting the BRT project, along with another federal air quality grant and funds from the transit system’s operating budget.

“We can’t wait to roll out a modern fare collection system for our riders,” said Kristina Hoffman, a spokesperson for MCTS. “Our intent is to make not only taking the bus easier but getting to wherever riders want to go more convenient.”

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