Someone Else’s Two Cents.

Back in the old days when I first started riding buses you had to pay with exact change, which I thought was a terrible idea because it’s hard sometimes to have exact change, and also the bus driver really had to pay attention to make sure you were putting in the right amount of change, and bus drivers have enough on their minds with just driving the bus. Although it was kind of fun that time I dumped the exact change, all in pennies, into the fare collector. And there were a few times that someone got on and didn’t have exact change and would plead with other passengers and ask if anyone could break a five and I always felt guilty because if I had any change at all it was only exactly as much as I needed to get wherever I was going which I carefully sorted out before I left, but that’s another story.

Now you don’t have to have exact change. If you pay too much the driver can give you a card with your change on it that you can use for your next ride. You can’t really get any money back, you just get credit that you can only use on the bus. Back in the old days I remember getting gift certificates for bookstores and other places I liked and if I didn’t spend the full amount they’d give me exact change. Now you get a gift card and if you don’t use the exact amount then you end up paying them. Or you throw away the card with some unused money still on it, which is why I seem to find change cards all the time on the bus.

Needless to say I think it’s a terrible idea but I can’t think of what the alternative would be, although I’m more confused about how someone ended up with exactly two cents left on a card when all bus fares end in either five or zero. The fare collector doesn’t even take anything smaller than a nickel anymore. So obviously throwing away that fare card was a great idea.

14 Comments

  1. Moonwatcher51

    I’ve been using local buses in Mexico and they have a tray set up with change. So it’s not so crucial to have exact change. I remember we used to have punch cards? Or maybe I’m dreaming. It’s a great place to people watch and view the graffiti art that is everywhere. Too bad we don’t have “beam me up” technology. I am looking forward to that. No change necessary.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Looking forward to being beamed up? I think I’m a bit like Dr. McCoy who had deep reservations about his atoms being scattered across the universe. Also I find the journey to be just as enjoyable as the destination, even if I do have to make change to get from one place to the next.

      Reply
  2. Kristine @MumRevised

    Aren’t you a doll to pick up litter! Just gather a few more two cents worth and you can make it down the block.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I am seriously tempted to collect discarded change cards and see if I can put together enough to pay for a bus trip. And picking up litter is a sometimes unfortunate hobby of mine–although I only pick up things that look interesting.

      Reply
  3. Chuck Baudelaire

    I have very fond memories of the sound of coins falling into the fare box. Sigh. I suppose the bus driver doesn’t tear off a paper transfer ticket when you board, either?

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Paper transfer tickets are sadly a thing of the past, and while the buses still accept coins the fare box has been redesigned so the coins falling into it doesn’t have quite the same ring. Although sometimes when a person needs to transfer to another bus the driver will write them a note. It’s a nice personal touch.

      Reply
  4. mydangblog

    I remember as a kid, taking the city bus to school–it was 45 cents per ride, and yes, exact change, because why wouldn’t you just need two quarters? I like the system here in Toronto, where you can buy tokens that are good for the streetcar or the subway. Each one is worth $3.00. You can also get what’s called a Presto Pass card, and you can load it online with as much money as you want, then use it for the train, subway, streetcar, or the new Rocket, which is the express train out to the airport.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      So the tokens are worth a loonie and a toonie? The buses here also have cards you can load with money, or, if you’re like me, you can work for a place that pays employees’ bus fare. I just swipe my university ID when I get on the bus. It’s a good deal and I think more people would take advantage of it if they lived within walking distance of a bus stop.

      Reply
  5. Jay

    I don’t think our buses take money at all now – everything is by card, whether you have a weekly or monthly pass, or just a ‘pay as you go’ card. I too wondered how the two cents came to be.
    Reminds me of doing laundry, also, which meant collecting a LOT of change. Now it’s all gone to cards as well.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That’s depressing that doing laundry has all gone to cards as well. It’s probably better because it means you don’t have to carry four or five pounds of change, which is rapidly the way the little Laundromats around me are going, but I’m a little suspicious of how the card use is being tracked and whether it means people are paying more.
      The one thing that’s constant is change.

      Reply
  6. Ann Koplow

    My 2 cents: I’ve spent some time being anxious about having exact change when riding buses in the past, but now I’m realizing that the worse that could have happened is that I would have spent more time outside, exploring.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That’s a fantastic epiphany: the lack of change can actually change your perspective.

      Reply
  7. Gilly

    Riding buses is so traumatic and expensive in the UK I try to avoid it wherever possible. I remember, back in my Canadian life, the Toronto Transit system was a joy to use. That all I have to contribute to this conversation.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It’s expensive? That’s funny–when I rode a bus from Carmarthen to Laugharne it was the cheapest leg of my trip. Admittedly it was also the scariest. The bus rattled and shook and I very nearly missed the last one that left in the evening.

      Reply

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