The Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority hopes to modernize its payment system to get rid of cash fares by 2020, becoming one of the first major transit agencies in the country to stop accepting coins and dollar bills, officials said this week.
The RTA spends more than $1 million each year collecting and managing cash, and it makes sense to switch to a system that only uses swipe cards and digital passes, said Mark Donaghy, CEO of the transit agency.
More than half of RTA customers have migrated to passes, including monthly and weekly passes, and less than one-third of daily riders use cash, said Donaghy.
Buses regularly have problems with the cash fare collection systems, which causes delays and require maintenance and repair, officials said.
“The future is going to be all electronic, and what we want to is develop the future and eliminate that box on the bus — it makes everything simpler,” Donaghy said.
The vision for the RTA is to move to a payment system of “one card, one phone,” said Brandon Policicchio, the agency’s chief customer and business development officer.
Riders will be able to pay by swiping passes or using a digital pass on a smartphone or other mobile device.
The system will still need to serve people who are “unbanked” or “underbanked,” meaning they don’t have traditional bank accounts or credit or debit cards and primarily rely on cash transactions, officials said.
Customers hopefully will be able to acquire electronic swipe cards to load up with money for fares at various locations, such as retail chain stores and local mom-and-pop shops, officials said.
The system would allow riders to go to a negative balance, meaning they could ride the bus for one trip to get to a place to add money to their cards, Policicchio said.
Boston looks to be the only other major U.S. city that is working on switching to cashless in the next couple of years, Policicchio said, though cities across Europe have operated cashless transit for years.
“Our job is not to collect fares — our job is to transport people,” he said.
Everyone has some type of electronic card — such as a student ID — that could work in the system, said Donaghy.