After bumpy few months, WeGo hopes new mobile payment system is a win for riders

Posted at 8:26 PM, Jan 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-29 22:13:29-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — WeGo Public Transit will soon debut a major tech upgrade: a mobile app and the option for pre-loaded smart cards for riders to pay for public transportation. Staff says it's a way to speed up boarding and make life easier for transit riders in Nashville.

They expect the new payment system to debut by late Summer or early Fall.

It's a big change because currently many riders pay bus drivers the $2 cash for a ride. Or they can buy passes made out of paper cards with a magnetic stripe, which are easily dropped or damaged.

"It's not gonna get torn up, it's not gonna blow away in the wind," said WeGo Public Transit Spokesperson Amanda Clelland, "these are gonna be cards just like gift cards that you keep in your wallet. You'll be able to keep control of it. You'll be able to set up an account online, reload value, reload passes as you need to. And the same with the mobile app. You'll be able to just scan your smart phone whenever you board."

Reloadable cards will cost $3, but WeGo officials say riders will get that money back in ride credit once they create an online WeGo account.

WeGo bus rider John Bull says he rides at least four buses per day. He's excited about the new system and thinks it will cut down on the line of people paying cash to board the bus.

"I think it’s a win," he said, "especially the dynamics of getting on the bus. I think it'll move a lot smoother."

Bull says he plans to download and pay with the WeGo app as soon as it's available. Like many Nashvillians, he's already on his cell phone all the time.

"I literally don’t leave home without it. If it could be wired to my head it would be," he laughed.

WeGo and its customers have experienced a bumpy few months, after a loss of state funds left a nearly $9 million budget deficit. Last fall, WeGo cut 9 bus routes and consolidated several others in order to accommodate the financial loss. It also raised fare prices, something it says it is not doing again.

The money for this project was set aside long before the recent budget issues. Staff have been working on the new payment system for two years.

They say they are ready to roll out something positive after the frustrations of recent months.

"We're hoping this will be just a little bit of a win for our customers," Clelland said.

The payment system will work on local and regional buses, the WeGo Star train and and for any Access services. Learn more about the payment system, including how to voice your opinion, here.