On Thursday morning, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority’s Lois Crawford was at Blake Transit Center spreading the word about the new fare boxes, which are scheduled to appear on AATA buses starting Feb. 6.
In addition to introducing riders to the new fare boxes, Crawford was distributing written information about the fare increase proposal and alerting bus riders who were waiting inside Blake to the ways they could give their feedback on the proposed rate hike, which would see the base fare climbing from $1 to $1.50 over the next two years.
Crawford had one of the Odyssey model boxes manufactured by GFI Genfare on hand, and powered up for inspection. The green-backlit message screen on the box read: “THANKS 4 RIDING AATA. WELCOME.”
Most riders will notice little immediate difference in their ride experience. One notable exception: M-Card holders. Currently, M-Cards, which are distributed to University of Michigan affiliates at no cost to them, need only be shown to the driver, who manually records the ride as an M-Ride. With the new fare boxes, M-Cards will need to be swiped in the slot that cuts diagonally across the upper right hand corner of the boxes from right to left. But drivers will continue to log every rider who enters the bus with a button press as they do now.
The new fare boxes are compatible with card printers, which can dispense fare cards as change for fares paid with bills as large as $10: Pay a $1 fare with a $10 bill and you get a card worth $9 in future bus fare as your change. This functionality will be up and running immediately on deployment of the new fare boxes. Reached by phone, Mary Stasiak, manager of community relations for AATA, stressed that the change cards are sturdy but not indestructible – care should be taken not to fold or otherwise mutilate them. AATA won’t be issuing refunds for damaged change cards.
Day passes (riders could take unlimited rides in the system for a single fare) can also be set up with the new boxes. The fare boxes can also read credit cards. When they’re deployed initially, the boxes will not be equipped with that functionality, however. AATA is still developing the pass packages and payment options that will be deployed on the fare boxes.
One of the bus riders Crawford interacted with on Thursday morning, Al Skinner, was enthusiast about the possibility of day passes. When you have a lot of trips to make over the course of a day, he said, the individual fares can add up quickly. Such day passes are available in Tulsa, Oklahoma for $3, he reported, a city where he visits a friend from time to time. Skinner is the former holder of a go!pass through the getDowntown program, but he no longer works for a downtown business, thus does not qualify for the yearly pass, which downtown employers can purchase for their employees at a cost of $5 per employee.
Skinner said he been to a lot of different cities, and that on the whole AATA provides on-time service that’s convenient. One suggestion he’d make, though, would be to run Route 20 more frequently and longer into the evening.
Public feedback on the proposed fare increases, as well as payment and pass options people would like to see with the new fare boxes, can be provided to the AATA at a series of public meetings: At the Ann Arbor District Library, Multipurpose Room, 343 S. Fifth, Ann Arbor: Tues., Feb. 10, 1-3 p.m. and Tues., Feb. 17, 6-8 p.m. In Ypsilanti, hearings will be held at the city of Ypsilanti Council Chambers, One S. Huron St., Ypsilanti: Thurs., Feb. 19, 4-7 p.m. and Thurs., Feb. 26, 1-3 p.m. [confirm dates] Details on the proposed fare increases.
Feedback can also be given to AATA on fares by:
- Calling the AATA Service Change Hotline at 734.677.3934.
- E-mailing the AATA at firstname.lastname@example.org; put “Fare Changes” in the subject line.
- Faxing AATA at 734.973.6338; address the fax to “Fare Changes.”
- Writing to “Fare Changes,” AATA, 2700 S. Industrial Hwy., Ann Arbor, MI 48104.