Clean Air Express and Santa Barbara MTD give customers options to tap-to-ride as a result of a California Integrated Travel Project contactless payment demonstration.

Clear Air Express buses and Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District (MTD) buses are being outfitted with contactless payment options.  

The fare payment system is being made available as part of a six-month demonstration with the California Integrated Travel Project (Cal-ITP), an initiative of the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) and California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to simplify travel by increasing access to public transit—including easier, faster payments via contactless credit/debit/prepaid cards and mobile wallets on smart devices. 

The contactless payment system for Santa Barbara MTD and Clean Air Express is the first to be introduced among public transit providers in the Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo tri-county region and one of the first three systems to be deployed statewide. The tap-to-ride system uses fare payment technology provided by Littlepay, Kuba, Cybersource and Elavon.  

“Older fare collection systems create unnecessary barriers for people to ride and choose transit,” said Marjie Kirn, executive director of Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, which operates the Clean Air Express. “With the new contactless payment system, customers can now pay their fare the same way they can buy a coffee or groceries by simply tapping a credit, debit card or using a mobile wallet on a smart phone or watch with no registration or account setup needed.” 

In addition to Visa and MasterCard credit and debit cards with tap-to-pay capabilities, mobile payments options include Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay and Fitbit Pay. While registration or account setup will not be required to use the system, an online portal will be available to all customers paying with a card who need a receipt or would like to check their recent rides and fare payments. 

“We are excited to introduce this convenient payment option for our riders,” said Jerry Estrada, general manager of Santa Barbara MTD. “We’re piloting this technology on 10 of our buses, serving Lines 12x and 24x. This means you’ll be able to get to UCSB, Downtown Santa Barbara, Camino Real Marketplace and Old Town Goleta with a simple tap of a card or device.” 

Clean Air Express and Santa Barbara MTD customers will see contactless payment readers installed at the front of the designated buses. If a customer’s debit or credit card is valid and has the contactless symbol on it or if they use a mobile payment option, they can tap it on the payment reader, look for a green checkmark on the payment reader’s screen and take a seat to ride. 

“Much of our goal is a more modern and consistent transportation experience throughout California,” said Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin. “Allowing riders to pay for transit with the same methods they use elsewhere not only increases efficiency and mobility, but also reduces barriers to using public transportation.” 

Automatic fare capping enables both transit providers to offer riders the ability to pay-as-they-go to receive multi-ride discounts when riders tap to pay with the same contactless payment card or device throughout the day or within a 30-day period. 

Santa Barbara MTD customers pay the standard adult fare of $1.75. Riders using the same payment card or device with the new system will automatically not be charged more than $6 a day or $52 in a 30-day period, which is equivalent to purchasing a one-day or 30-day pass.  

Santa Barbara MTD buses with the contactless payment capability will have a special decal next to the front door of the bus, labeled with “Tap to Pay” and the contactless indicator symbol. 

Clean Air Express customers using the contactless payment system will be charged $6, a $1 discount from the standard $7 one-way cash fare. Existing Clean Air Express multi-ride fare discounts are honored with the new system, with riders automatically not being charged more than $10 per day—or $150 over 30 days—when using the same payment card or device. 

Clean Air Express and Santa Barbara MTD still accept physical passes and cash payments. The contactless payment option is just one more way to pay a fare—and to do so in a quick, secure way on both transit providers.