Transit app

Your new, equitable way to pay

Introducing COTA’s new equitable fare payment system! Never pay more than you should to ride COTA. This new system uses the Transit app or a COTA Smartcard to connect to your COTA account, giving you access to benefits like:

Fare Capping
  • Never pay more than $4.50 per day or $62 per calendar month, regardless of whether you pay with cash, credit or debit card.

No fare capping. $2 x 4 = $8. Pays $2 cash each trip. Rides 4 times per day on average. Spends $8 total each day.With fare capping. $2 x 4 = $4.50 or less. Digitizes cash using the Transit app or a COTA Smartcard to pay $2 fare. Rides 4x per day on average. Pays no more than $4.50 total per day.

Simplified Transfers
  • COTA Transit app and Smartcard passes are valid for two hours, regardless of your direction of travel. Any transfers within a two-hour timespan are included in the cost of a single trip.

Learn more about COTA’s new equitable fare policies.


Get started with the Transit app

The easiest way to start taking advantage of these benefits is to download the Transit app and set up your COTA account. For those who do not have access to a smartphone, you can still get all of these wonderful benefits by paying your fares with a COTA Smartcard.

Plus, all new COTA accounts created in the Transit app by January 31st of 2022 will receive a complimentary account credit of $4.50. Once you follow the steps below to set up your COTA account, please allow two business days for the $4.50 credit to appear in your Transit app account.

 

Step 1

Go to the App Store or Google Play Store on your smartphone and search “transit.” Download the application with the green icon shown below.

Step 2

Allow the Transit app to access your location. This unlocks important features, like real-time notifications, alerts when on the vehicle and the ability to search nearby routes.

Step 3

Set your location sharing preference. We recommend that you “Allow Sharing While Using App.”

Step 4

Welcome to the Transit home screen. Click “Buy” at the bottom of the screen.

Step 5

Click “Pay with your mobile phone.”

Step 6

Enter your email address to begin setting up your COTA account.

Step 7

Type your first and last name.

Step 8

Create a password for your account and check the box to indicate that you accept the “Terms of use.”

Step 9

A notice will appear to confirm that COTA was added to your Transit account. Press “OK.”

Step 10

If you want to add funds to your account directly from the mobile app, then select “Add funds with card” and input your payment information, then move on to Step 11. If you prefer to load cash onto your COTA account at one of up to 400 local retailers, tap the X in the upper righthand corner and move on to Step 13.

Step 11

Select the amount of money that you would like added to your account.

Step 12

Confirm your purchase amount and select “Proceed to payment.” Then, select “Place order.”

Step 13

To add cash to your account, visit one of up to 400 local retailers and select “VIDAPAY or VanillaDirect.” Your cashier can help you choose the right provider. Then, they’ll look up your account ID or scan your QR code/barcode to add your funds.

VIDAPAY retail locations | VanillaDirect retail locations

Step 14

If you are ready to ride COTA, select “Ride now.” Then, scan the barcode on the validator and wait for the green light to indicate that your fare was accepted.

When the light on the validator turns green, you’re ready to ride — it’s as easy as tap, tap, go!

Transit app questions?

Need help? Click on the settings gear in the top left corner to open this
settings page.

Click third option

Click on the third menu option with the Transit icon to access help options and to like or follow COTA’s social media channels.

Check the help section

Click the “Help” section for answers to frequently asked questions. Can’t find what you’re looking for?
Tap on help option Transit app screen

Call us!

Clicking on “Call COTA” will open a direct line.

 

 


No Smartphone? No problem!

You can get the same benefits without a smartphone through a COTA Smartcard. To get your COTA Smartcard, visit the Customer Experience Center at 33 N. High St. There, a friendly member of Team COTA will help you set up your account.

Already have a Smartcard?
  1. Set up your COTA account
  2. Register your Smartcard
  3. Add funds

There is no initial charge for a COTA Smartcard. However, if the card is lost or stolen, there is a $3 charge to replace it.


Frequently Asked Questions

Fare Capping

What is fare capping? How does it affect me?
Fare capping is a way for COTA to improve accessibility to mobility solutions for customers regardless of their financial situation. Through our new fare management system, COTA will keep track of how much a customer has paid in fares per day and per month. Under this new system, a customer will never pay more than $4.50 per day (the cost of a Day Pass) or $62 per calendar month (the cost of a Monthly Pass) in total fares. A customer must have a COTA account within the Transit app or attached to a COTA Smartcard to receive the benefits of fare capping, as this is how we will keep track of their total fares paid. Monthly fare caps will reset on the first day of each calendar month. Daily fare caps will reset every morning at 4 a.m.
Why is COTA transitioning to fare capping?
Our goal in implementing fare capping is to keep customers from ever paying more than they should to ride COTA. We recognize that customers who cannot purchase a $62 Monthly Pass often find themselves paying more than $62 per month in total fares due to paying per day or per ride. This system will help make sure that no longer happens.

 

Transit App & Smartcard

What is the Transit app?
The Transit app is the software COTA customers must use in order to receive the benefits of fare capping. This app keeps track of how much a customer has paid in fares in a given day and in a given month to ensure they never pay more than the set fare cap. Through the Transit app, customers can easily set their route, keep track of bus schedules and pay their fares.
What information will be required to sign up for the new system?
To use the mobile app, a valid email address is required. While an email address is not required for Smartcards, COTA encourages all customers to register their card with an email address as it provides the best protection for the customers if the card is lost or stolen. This way, COTA team members can block the lost/stolen device or Smartcard and assist with setting up a new one on the account. Without an email address, this functionality is not possible. Credit card information is not required for the Smartcard or the mobile app.
What if I lose my phone or Smartcard?
Please visit the Customer Experience Center (33 N. High St.) or call Customer Care at 614-228-1776 to report lost or stolen Smartcards or smartphones associated with accounts. If an account is established via mobile app or with a Smartcard that has been registered and tied to the account, COTA can deactivate or block the lost/stolen device or Smartcard and assist with setting up a new one with the account. If funds are loaded onto a Smartcard without an account being created, the funds cannot be recovered.
Do I need a phone or Smartcard for each of my children to ride?
At this time, yes, each person traveling with you will need to pay fares separately, either via smartphone or Smartcard. Fare capping will apply to each customer using their own account (on the smartphone or Smartcard). Customers eligible for reduced fares require application and enrollment in the reduced fare program, which our team can assist with either in person at 33 N. High St. or on the phone at 614-228-1776.

 

Ticket & Purchasing Options

Is COTA going cashless? What are the plans to go cashless?
COTA does intend to go cashless on-board. However, the timeline for doing so has not yet been determined. We are committed to ensuring that this transition to the account-based system using the new technology and retail partners is successful.
When will COTA stop issuing cash transfers and Day Passes on the vehicle?
We are still determining the timeline for when we will sunset some of our offerings, including transfers and Day Passes on board. However, we will not sunset our offerings without sufficient public notice and training.
Will I be able to use my current retail location to load cash to my new account?

Our retail locations are being updated and there is a chance your local Kroger or Giant Eagle may not be included. There is a map in the Transit app and on COTA.com that shows all participating retail locations you can visit to load cash onto your account. We are adding up to 400 retail locations to our network.

VIDAPAY retail locations
VanillaDirect retail locations

What happens to unused paper tickets or passes? How long will they still be accepted?
Our customers will have the ability to use the existing paper passes they have purchased. While COTA will stop selling certain passes, we will not immediately discontinue accepting these passes without sufficient public notice.
What will happen to any unused balance on my account at the end of the month?
Any unused account balance will roll over for use in the next month.
What happens if I don’t have enough money in my account to ride?
Customers will still have the ability to pay cash on-board, but it will not count toward fare capping. Accounts cannot go negative.
How will this affect customers with the Connector card/app?
C-pass customers using the Connector app will not be affected at this time. Connector users with funds remaining on their account should use up those funds before transitioning over to the new system. Refunds cannot be given for remaining balances.
How will this affect customers with C-pass/BuckID/etc.?
At this time, C-pass and other pass programs, such as the one with Ohio State, will not be affected. You will continue to use your existing media until further notice.
How will this impact COTA//Plus or Mainstream?
Neither are being impacted at this time, but we are looking at how we can bring them into the new payment system in the future.
Will I be able to pay COTA//Plus or Mainstream fare with the new system?
Not at this time. However, we are looking at how we can incorporate these services into the new system.

 

Discount Fares

I currently qualify for discounted COTA fares. Can I keep that entitlement with the new payment system?
Yes. All customers who are currently eligible for discounted fares can use the new system with their discount, but they must enroll first. To have the entitlement added to their account, customers can call COTA Customer Care at (614) 228-1776 or visit the Customer Experience Center (33 N. High St.). Please note that customers must use their legal name, not a nickname, when creating their COTA account in order for Team COTA to verify eligibility documentation with an associated account.
How do I pay the discount fare with the new system?
A customer’s discount eligibility will be assigned to their account. The payment process is the same for all customers. They tap their Smartcard or scan the QR code in the app on the validator located onboard the vehicle. The discount is automatically applied to the fare in their account, whether they use a Smartcard or phone to pay. Customers in the new system will no longer need to show a separate ID to get the discount.
If I buy 7-Day or 31-Day passes for someone else, how can I purchase them for someone else with the new system?
Those that purchase a pass for another individual will have the ability to create an account for that person and load funds to that account. Once the account is created, that customer will have the ability to ride the system and enjoy the benefits of fare capping, providing them the value of a Day Pass or Monthly Pass.