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By Miriam Raftery

January 3, 2021 (San Diego) – Virtual public hearings are planned January 9, 12, and 13 on proposed transit fare changes for trolley and bus services proposed by the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS), North County Transit District (NCTD), and the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG).

If approved, these changes would take effect when the Compass Card system is replaced by the new regional PRONTO fare system in mid-2021.  They include fee hikes for most riders, but a reduction in youth ridership fees for ages 6-18.

Two fare adjustment scenarios are under consideration and detailed in the table inside this Notice Both scenarios would:

  • Reduce one-way cash fares for Youth to align with the discounted Senior/Disabled/Medicare cash fares.
  • Increase Adult one-way cash fares on most bus and light rail services from $2.50 to $2.75.
  • Include “best-fare” capabilities for 1-day and Monthly passes (except NCTD COASTER) and eliminate the 30-day pass (see “How will PRONTO work” below).
  • Increase MTS Access and NCTD LIFT fares from $5.00 to $5.50.

Scenario B includes small increases to monthly products. Proposed changes allow MTS and NCTD to offer “best-value” fares (see PRONTO insert).

If approved by MTS, NCTD, and SANDAG boards, the new fares would be implemented after May 1, 2021.


Three public meetings will be held to get public input  Due to Covid-19 safety precautions, these meetings will be held “virtually,” with the public able to listen and provide input by computer or telephone. See below for information on how to participate.

• Saturday, January 9, 2021, 10 a.m. Register Here

• Tuesday, January 12, 2021, 1 p.m.  Register Here

• Wednesday, January 13, 2021, 6 p.m.  Register Here


How will PRONTO work?

This new fare system will automatically give riders the best-possible fare. Riders who load money into their PRONTO account will have a one-way fare deducted from their balance each time they board a public transit vehicle (COASTER requires the pre-purchase of Day and Month Passes). A rider will never be charged more than the value of a Day Pass or Monthly Pass once they have deducted the value of those passes over the course of a day or month. Riders may still purchase a calendar month pass in advance if they choose. Riders will be able to load money in their account online instantly in the new PRONTO mobile app, on ticket machines at stations, at the Transit Store or Customer Service Centers, and at participating retail outlets.


Below are frequently asked questions, via the MTS website:


Why is a fare change being considered?

MTS and NCTD depend on fare revenue to maintain its service levels. Operational costs have increased more than 25% over the past 10 years. MTS and NCTD periodically review its fares to ensure that fare revenue keeps pace. Scenario A will increase fare revenue by $3 million per year. Scenario B will increase fare revenue by $4.2 million per year. View the Take One for more details on the different scenarios.

If approved, when will the fares go into effect?

If approved by the respective boards of directors of the agencies, the fares will not go into effect until May 1, 2021 or later.

Why are you lowering the Youth one-way fare?

Currently the Youth fare for a Day Pass and Month Pass are the same as S/D/M fares, but the one-way Youth fare is the same as the Adult one-way fare. The change will align all Youth fares with the S/D/M fares.

What age qualifies for the Youth one-way fare?

Youth fares are available for those ages 6-18, with a valid school or transit ID. Children five years old and under may ride free on all bus, light rail, and commuter services when traveling with a paying passenger.

With ridership so low due to COVID-19, why is this being considered now?

The region is implementing an improved fare system to allow riders to pay-as-they-go rather than pay up-front for Day or Month passes. This new way to pay for fares requires policy changes and board approval. It was decided to include fare change proposals at the same time.

How can I best provide comments to the boards of directors?

Your input is extremely important and we have many ways by which you can provide comments. Please register for one of our three virtual public meetings to learn more about these changes.

You may also submit your comments in writing:

Mail to: SANDAG PIO, 401 B Street, Suite 800, San Diego, CA 92101

Email to:

Comments on webform:

Who can I contact with questions?

MTS Compass Card Service Center and Compass Cloud: 619-595-5636

For people with hearing or speech impairments, call 619-234-5005