Milwaukee County Buses To Go Paperless

Jan 15, 2016

Starting February 29, Milwaukee County Transit System passengers will no longer be able to purchase paper tickets. From then on, bus rides can only be bought with cash or M-Cards, reloadable electronic smart cards.

M-Cards have been available for sometime, but now Milwaukee is following the lead of other cities across the country in eliminating paper tickets. According to MCTS spokesman Brendon Conway, M-Cards will make life easier for riders and the transit system alike.   

“It’s more environmentally friendly. The drivers like it better. They don’t have to touch things,” says Conway. “It can just reduce some of our costs for having to print that paper. So its really a win-win for a lot of people.”

Conway says that the M-Card is more efficient for riders because “if you lose a paper ticket, well it’s lost, you can’t do anything about it, much like if you lose a dollar bill.” With the M-Card, if a rider has recorded the serial number, MCTS can transfer the value on the lost card to a new one.

There is also an economic incentive for regular riders to use an M-Card instead of cash. “You save 50 cents a ride, and so it pays for itself pretty quickly,” he says.

Paper ticket holders will be able to use their tickets through 2016, but Conway encourages riders to purchase an M-Card. The card costs $2 and is available at about 100 locations across Milwaukee County and online.

Paper transfer tickets will also be going away.

Nearly 35% of users currently use cash to ride the bus and receive paper transfer tickets good for a transfer within the next 60-90 minutes. "You’ll need to have an M-Card. It can be a blank M-Card, it doesn’t need to have value, but you’re going to have to put the cash in the fare box and then you touch that M-Code and then it in-codes automatically a 90 minute transfer," Conway says.

MCTS hopes to use the data from M-Cards to track which routes are used the most often and to improve the system. “There’s going to be a wealth of information in the coming years that will help us be even more efficient with our routes,” says Conway.