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When do I pay?

There's always a bit of confusion for riders about Metro's "pay-as-you-leave" policy...

The Ride Free Area (RFA) exists in order to maximize the throughput of buses through downtown by minimizing their time in the RFA. This is done by allowing riders to board the bus without paying and requiring that riders pay when they leave the area.

There are a couple big problems with the Ride Free Area:

  • RFA leads to confusion on when to pay the fare. That is, riders always have to ask themselves, "Did this bus leave the RFA between the hours of 6am and 7pm?" Riders shouldn't have to think about that.
  • Riders traversing the RFA on a single bus must get a transfer when paying cash upon boarding, and then show the transfer (or swipe their pass) again when leaving. 
  • RFA buses are commonly used as moving homeless shelters.

So, how do we help buses run faster thru the downtown core? And, ideally, shorten stops elsewhere, too? Here are a couple options...

Establish prepay boarding areas. Prepay boarding would be enforced in areas where the number of riders is so great that it justifies installation of curb-side payment kiosks. (Ideally, the new parking meters which are already installed on our streets could also serve as fare payment kiosks.) This would work well in Downtown, transit centers, park-n-rides, freeway stations, and other high-volume stops. During peak hours, station agents could be located in these areas in order to inspect fares while boarding thru the back door as well as the front door, and could also provide rider assistance. Furthermore, riders who have not prepaid in a prepay area would be required to pay a convenience charge in addition to their normal fare. 

Adopt a proof-of-payment system with enforcement by fare inspectors. This would work best on express routes where there are long distances between stations; fare inspectors could board the bus at the beginning of an express segment and inspect fares while traveling along that segment.(However, these routes are usually the routes that primarily serve high ridership destinations that would have payment kiosks referenced above.) Bus drivers would probably also like this option as it would remove the burden of enforcement from their responsibilities. However, it would probably only work on certain routes during certain times of day; therefore, it would need to be implemented carefully in order to ensure that it works toward simplifying the fare policy instead of making it even more complex..

Establish Commuter Bus Stations at the north and south end of downtown to reduce the number of buses traveling thru the downtown core. For more thoughts on this, read the working document on Commuter Bus Stations.