How you can get a free month of rides on MTS trolleys, buses

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File photo – A trolley in the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System. MTS is switching to its new PRONTO fare system in September.

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Passengers can ride public transportation in San Diego for free in September if they switch to the city’s new PRONTO fare collection system.

The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System Board of Directors approved the plan Thursday in hopes it will ease the transition from Compass Cards to PRONTO, which is scheduled to launch that month.

“Providing free rides during the entire month of September to those who switch to PRONTO accounts is a good way for riders to familiarize themselves with the new system and get the new PRONTO cards into their hands,” said Nathan Fletcher, MTS board chair.

“This Board of Directors is committed to making transit in San Diego more convenient; and this new system will help increase accessibility to our trolleys and buses,” he said. “Riders who participate in the free ride program this September will quickly realize the new system is easy to use and convenient, making for a better user experience.”

MTS is planning an aggressive campaign in August to make it easy for riders to transition.

“It will be a big effort to transition hundreds of thousands of people to PRONTO,” said MTS CEO Sharon Cooney. “But offering riders with a free PRONTO card and free rides during the launch is a great incentive. Once they start using PRONTO regularly, riders will quickly realize how much better and easier the experience is, and they will also see some of the other exciting enhancements we have waiting for them.”

Ridership on MTS buses and trolleys has been slowly increasing since it hit a low point in April 2020 at the height of the Stay at Home order issued due to the coronavirus pandemic. MTS currently counts about 134,000 passenger trips per weekday — around 50% of pre-pandemic levels.

At its May meeting, the board directed staff to report back with a comprehensive plan designed to attract riders back to the system. The centerpiece to the agency’s plan is offering those who have either a PRONTO card or mobile app for the ability to ride free of charge for the entire month of September.

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