Rapid rolling out first e-fare system of its kind in MI

The Wave
The Wave e-fare system operates with a smart card or smartphone app.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Rapid is rolling out a new way for riders to pay: an e-fare system called “The Wave.”

The Rapid will be the first mass transit system in Michigan to utilize this technology, which includes a smart card and mobile ticketing app for riders.

The system is simple: The rider holds their smartphone with a bar code under a reader or they hold their Wave card up to a sensor, wait for it to process, then board.

“It’s going to benefit our riders in a number of ways. First, it’s going to reduce boarding times. It’s an easy tap and go, or scanning a bar code on your smart phone as you board, so it will speed up the boarding process. It will also allow The Rapid to increase its on-time performance,” said Michael Bulthuis with the transit service.

Unlike the current system, The Wave will be account based, meaning riders won’t lose their money if they lose their Wave card. They’ll just need to replace their card for a small fee.

Riders who register their card can also connect it to a bank account, so if their account balance gets low, it will automatically pull money over to pay for fares.

The Rapid is also introducing a capped fare system with the Wave card. Right now if you want to buy a 31-day pass, you spend the money up-front, no matter how many times you ride The Rapid.

“With the Wave, you buy your monthly pass one ride at a time and you never pay more than the value of that monthly pass, so it’s much more equitable for our riders,” Bulthuis explained.

The Rapid said the change will also reduce printing and maintenance costs while curbing paper ticket waste. Right now, The Rapid prints millions of tickets a year, as well as 1.7 million transfer tickets, 3,000 of which are never used.

The bus system will retain its current fare rates and customers do not need to pay for The Wave card.

Riders who don’t opt in can keep paying with cash.

“Change is a little scary, but I think once people get those cards in their hands and start using it, they are going to see very, very quickly that its very beneficial for them. It simplifies the boarding process. I think it’s going to be very well-received,” said Bulthuis.

If you ride The Rapid now, you may already notice payment terminals on the bus, but they aren’t operational yet.

The Rapid is looking for people to take part in a pilot program starting in August to test the payment terminals so the transit system can work out any issues before the final rollout. People can sign up on The Rapid’s website to take part.

The Rapid hopes to have The Wave system fully operational by early 2018.