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Commuters want to go cashless

By Marcie Geffner · Bankrate.com
Friday, March 23, 2012
Posted: 3 pm ET

Mass-transit commuters aren't a happy bunch.

Not only are they frustrated by traffic and missed connections, but they're also not thrilled with the payment options they have for their bus, train or subway fares. That's according to a new survey commissioned by global payments giant MasterCard.

Given the choice, the majority of commuters would use a tap-and-go prepaid, debit or credit card to pay their fare.

The survey, conducted online late last year by Harris Interactive, asked 1,607 adults in seven major U.S. cities about the common pains they've experienced when relying on cash to pay mass-transit costs. The respondents -- all in New York; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; Philadelphia; Seattle, San Francisco; and Baltimore -- estimated they spent 32 minutes per day using their city's mass transit system.

More than a third of commuters in the survey reported being unable to make a trip at one time or another because they didn't have enough cash on hand, and almost two-thirds who use cash for mass transit said they were worried about the possibility of that situation.

More than 44 percent said they'd missed a bus, train or subway because they were waiting in line to buy or add money to a fare card, and 42 percent said worrying about the need for correct change was one of their top frustrations when paying mass transit fares.

Catherine Murchie, senior vice president at MasterCard Worldwide, said the survey showed mass transit riders want "a better way" to pay their fare, and that options such as MasterCard PayPass could "eliminate the need to wait in line, fumble for exact change or carry multiple fare cards."

Indeed, three out of four surveyed commuters who use multiple modes of mass transit daily wanted one payment card that could be used to access all the systems near or within their hometown.

Two out of three riders said they'd be likely to use a tap-and-go form of payment to pay for mass transit if that were an option, and almost half said they'd use their mobile phone to pay for mass transit if that were an option.

Nearly 60 percent considered shorter lines and speedier commutes through transportation centers as major benefits of tap-and-go payment options.

Murchie said MasterCard is working with a number of public transportation agencies to improve how riders pay their fares.

The MasterCard PayPass option allows consumers to tap a PayPass-enabled mobile phone, card, key fob or other device on a reader that accepts contactless payments to make a fare purchase. The company said the service can help provide a fast, reliable and convenient payment method and reduce mass transit operating costs.

Follow me on Twitter: @marciegeff.

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