Metro Hopes New Fare Option Helps Boost Ridership

"You're getting ready to go to school? Tell you what, then you definitely need one of these, because you can also get the student pass, okay ... " 

Metro employees moved among the rush-hour crowds at the busy Wheeler Transit Center, spreading the word that one of its most popular fare options is back. That's the day pass. It allows riders to travel as much as they want on Metro's buses and trains for a flat fee of $3 a day. 

Bus rider Joffery Bankett is anxious to get one. 

"A day pass is the best thing that can happen in Houston, Texas, as big as Houston is, because you have people looking for jobs, you have people who have to take their children to the hospital, to the babysitter, or whatever. Yes, this would be the best thing for us."

The old day passes went by the wayside in 2008, when Metro went to its Q-Card fare system. That's about the time Jose Gonzales started driving for Metro. He says the lack of a day pass caused problems for some riders desperate to stretch a dollar amid the economic downturn. 

"Well actually we had a lot of people that stopped using the bus because day pass went away, because instead of doing two or three trips to the store, they used to try to do just one, and when they forgot something, they would just wait until the next week to go back."

And Metro's Margaret O'Brien-Molina says they don't want people to find themselves in a situation where they can't use the bus.

"We're hoping to get more riders. I mean, we want more people to use transit in Houston."

Metro's number show about a 2.7 percent increase in ridership over last fiscal year, with about 269,000 boardings every weekday. 

But there are still a lot of empty seats, and O'Brien-Molina says Metro is working to change attitudes about public transit. She says it's not just for people who have no other way to travel. 

"It helps decongest our roads. It helps us get more mileage from our government services, our contracts. Everything that we do is geared to having full loads of people on our buses, on our trains."

Metro says the current Q Card remains the best value for people who only make one or two trips a day. It offers five free rides for every 50 paid trips. For more information on Metro fares, visit ridemetro.org/FareInfo.

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