Earlier this week, I wrote that I’d be more likely to take the bus if there were easy-to-read route maps posted near bus stops. (Or anywhere. Even the online map is terrible.)
Here’s another reason I don’t ride the bus very often: cash.
More specifically, it’s my recollection from the last time I rode the bus about five months ago that in order to pay for a single ride I need exact change. Of course, I could buy a longer term pass or, as I learned recently, bus tokens.
But because I live in a walkable community my need for the bus is sporadic and irregular. I don’t need a pass and I’d almost surely lose tokens before using them.
So I need to pay for single trips, which is really hard because I can’t do it with a credit card.
I know I’m not alone in this either. In large part, people under the age of 35 or 40 rarely carry cash anymore.
The downside, however, is that when we need or want to ride the bus many of us don’t have exactly $2.50 in cash for the fare. Even worse, no ATM will dispense a couple of ones and two quarters; unless the bus driver has change for a $20 bill (which she/he won’t), we’re out of luck.
Like the route map problem, this is a relatively easy thing to fix. For example, buses could be equipped with card readers. Or, machines similar to those at TRAX stations could be deployed in areas where there are a few bus stops. These options would have some cost, but if they were done correctly (including marketing) an increase in ridership — which I believe would be significant over the long run — should off set those costs. And of course the collateral benefits of fewer drivers would be many.
Finally, I realize that complaining about the lack of credit card readers on buses is what some might call a “first world problem” (though I hate that phrase). And it’s true, it’s not the biggest issue in the world and the individual burden is on the user to make the system work.
But the goal, I think, is to get as many people riding transit as possible. That means making it as easy as possible to use for all different types of people. Though some people don’t “struggle” with only using credit cards for transit, it’s a shame that we’ve basically built an entire transit system that ignores the growing demographic that does.