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Prepayment Goes Live on CONNECT 1 Starting April 15


A new change is happening on the CONNECT 1 Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service that will save riders time boarding the bus.

Starting on Monday, April 15, Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) requires prepayment on the CONNECT 1 to speed up the boarding process.

How much faster is prepayment? According to national transit data, taking payment onboard the bus typically takes between 5 and 9 seconds per passenger, more if that passenger isn’t ready with payment. When you multiply that by all the passengers boarding an MCTS bus, it can add minutes per trip for all riders each day. With the WisGo fare system, the scanner reduces the average online transaction time to 169 milliseconds (0.17 seconds). Off-board fare collection--along with dedicated bus lanes, quick-board stations, and transit signal improvements--all work to get riders to their destinations up to eight minutes faster on the CONNECT 1.

MCTS President and Managing Director Denise Wandke said, “Riders tell us they want to get to their destinations as quickly as possible. By adding prepayment to other time-saving features such as dedicated bus lanes and boarding through all doors, the CONNECT 1 BRT makes a big difference getting riders to their jobs, doctor appointments, classes or entertainment even faster.”

On Monday April 15, riders at each of the stations along the CONNECT 1’s 9-mile route must have their fare ready and scan that fare at the station before they board the bus. Riders will scan their fare on a validator located directly on the station platform. During the first week of prepayment, MCTS employees, bus operators, and support staff will be available at several BRT stations along the CONNECT 1 line to help riders move quickly through the new way to prepay.

Tips to Make Boarding Faster on the CONNECT 1
Whether someone is a first-time rider on the CONNECT 1 or has taken it to work every day since it launched, MCTS asks everyone to follow these trip tips so prepayment becomes second nature:

  • Prepay - Each of the CONNECT line’s 32 stations will have a payment validator located on the platform. Riders will need to scan their WisGo card or Umo app at the validator. Cash and credit card users must purchase a ticket at the Ticket Vending Machine (TVM) at the station and then scan the ticket at the validator before boarding.  
  • Board - After riders prepay and validate, they can then board at any door.
  • Ride - Enjoy the ride. WisGo card, Umo app and TVM tickets include a 90-minute transfer with each fare. The clock starts ticking on the transfer the instant fare is scanned, so use the Umo mobile app or look at the real-time arrival screen at many of the CONNECT 1 stations to see when the bus will arrive.

Paying Your Fare Share
When riders pay their fare, it enables MCTS to continue to invest in improving service. Fare revenue accounted for 17 percent of MCTS’s budget in 2023.  Riders are encouraged to prepay and keep their proof of payment available. A Transit Security Officer at the station or on board the bus may ask riders to show their WisGo card, Umo app, or TVM ticket as proof of purchase. The bus operator remains focused on driving the bus safely and will not be involved in fare collection.

MCTS Enhanced Transit Manager David Locher said, “We definitely live in a faster-paced culture, one where we measure success in seconds. Prepayment reflects that expectation. Scanning your fare payment before entering the bus allows quicker boarding and bus departure. It's one of the features that puts the ‘Rapid’ in Bus Rapid Transit on the CONNECT 1.”

Regular bus routes require payment on board the bus, only CONNECT 1 BRT requires prepayment. CONNECT 1 riders can watch an instructional video showing how to pay, board and ride. For more information about riding CONNECT 1, visit RideMCTS.com/Prepay..