Survey: Riders prefer cashless fare payment

Posted on March 21, 2012

Many of the top frustrations cited by U.S. commuters have to do with how they pay fares, with a majority saying they recognize the benefits contactless payments can provide to improve the commuting experience, according to a new survey released by MasterCard Worldwide.

The online survey, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of MasterCard between November 21 and December 6, 2011 among 1,607 adults across seven major U.S. cities, evaluated common pain points transit riders have experienced when relying on cash to pay for their trip:

  • Nearly two-thirds of U.S. commuters who use cash for mass transit (65%) worry about not having enough cash on hand to pay for their trip, while more than one-third (36%) have actually been unable to take mass transit because they did not have enough cash on hand.
  • More than two in five U.S. commuters (44%) have missed a bus, train or subway while waiting in line to buy or add money onto a fare card.
  • Two in five riders who use cash for mass transit (42%) say worrying about needing correct change is one of their top frustrations when paying for their commute.

When presented with the option to use a contactless payment option instead of cash on their daily commute, riders were clear in their desire for a better way to pay. Of those who take multiple modes of mass transit each day, three-quarters (75%) wish there was one payment card that could be used to access all mass transit systems near or within their local city. Two-thirds of riders (66%) say they would be likely to use a Tap & Go form of payment to pay for mass transit if it were an option to them. Nearly half of all commuters (47%) say they would use their mobile phone to pay for mass transit.

The MasterCard survey also found that reducing transit travel time is high on U.S. commuters' wish lists. Riders estimate they spend an average of 2.7 hours per work week (32 minutes per day) accessing the mass transit system. Yet, when asked about the benefits of using a Tap & Go form of payment, riders estimated they could shave nearly an hour a week (an average 11 minutes per day) from their commute.

According to the survey, there are a number of payment frustrations that contribute to current, lengthy transit travel times:

  • Nearly one third of commuters (31%) say they feel they spend too much time waiting in line to buy or add money to their fare card.
  • Forty-three percent feel the ticketing machines are often slow, out of order or difficult to use.
  • More than a quarter of riders (26%) are frustrated by the process they must go through to replace a misplaced fare card.
  • One-fifth of commuters (21%) have been frustrated by not knowing where or how to pay in unfamiliar mass transit systems.


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