Cash payments are an important component of mass transit — buses and trains are essential for all strata of the population, but particularly critical for low income and underbanked travelers.
However, from an operational standpoint, cash acceptance is a seriously costly business for transit authorities. In a Boston Federal Reserve study, it was found that cash handling totaled 22.9% of operating costs, while credit and debit card acceptance totaled just 3.5%.
Moreover, cash handling has many ways it can go awry, including simple human error. For instance, a 2016 review of MBTA cash handling in Boston found a number of egregious errors in the “money room.” The report detailed holes in fences, missing keys, disabled cameras, a door kept together with duct tape, and other doors throughout the building left propped open. One photo included in the report showed an open door with a taped sign that read, “This door should remain shut at all times.”