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Detroit Area Transit Agencies Consider Universal Fare System

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Nowadays, more than 50% of mobile device users identify their phone as their primary Internet device, and why shouldn’t they? Smartphones and tablets can do just about anything, and depending on the results of a study by the Regional Transportation Authority of Southeast Michigan, Detroiters may be able to use them to pay their bus fare.

The RTA of Southeast Michigan — which the Detroit People Mover, the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority, DDOT, and SMART all fall under — is conducting a study that may transform how the four transit agencies collect fares. In other words, it’s looking for a universal fare card, of sorts.

Although some of the study’s recommendations can be quickly implemented, others could take years to roll out. These more complicated measures that may be implemented include the ability to pay transit fare with a credit card or mobile device. One of the measures that can be implemented more quickly is a single plastic card that could act as a universal way to pay fare, allowing riders to easily pay for transportation with any of the four agencies.

Cornelius Henry, the transportation specialist with the People Mover who is leading the study, said the advantages of a universal fare are obvious. A system that doesn’t force people to find the right change, or remember which of their fare cards needs to be loaded is far more attractive and definitely more usable. Consequently, it will increase ridership.

With increased ridership comes other benefits. Every year, 37 million metric tons of carbon emissions and 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline are saved due to use of public transportation in the United States. With more people riding, more resources will be conserved.

The question now it seems is not whether or not such a system is beneficial, but rather if it will happen, which industry experts believe will.

“It’s going to happen,” said DDOT Director Dan Dirks. “It’s happening all over the country to be honest.”

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