Frequently Asked Questions
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.
Can funds loaded to my Transit app account be used for COTA’s other services like Mainstream or COTA//Plus?
Not currently. Transit app funds can only be applied and used for COTA regular fixed-route transit services and do not include COTA’s other ancillary transit services.
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.