NCMM logo empty cell Return to Mobility Management home page
Return to NCMM Homepage

Transit Pass Toolkit

United We Ride LogoTransit passes are a simple and effective way for human service agencies and public transit providers to work together to get people where they need to go. You are entering a virtual toolkit that will help explain ways that transit pass partnerships can work for you and your community partners.

This toolkit is designed to help human services agencies and public transit providers work together to assure affordable customer access and mobility. Transit passes are a strategy that can help these be the proverbial "win-win" partnership.

The Kit

How This Toolkit is Structured

There are nine essential elements in almost every transit pass program. As you follow the links to each element, you will see that the details of these elements will vary by program, community or other context, but the elements themselves remain constant. These elements are

  • Establishing Eligibility (PDF) (123 KB): Key criteria for establishing transit passes and individuals who might be able to participate in the transit pass program. This section also includes considerations for geographic conditions, frequency, and other key factors.
  • Price Setting (PDF) (96 KB): Concepts for determining the costs of a transit pass and options for sharing costs between partners.
  • Distribution (PDF) (88 KB): The process of distributing passes through agencies or to individual customers.
  • Training (PDF) (102 KB): Options for ensuring that transit system staff, human service agency staff and individual customers all understand how the transit pass works and options for use at the community level.
  • Safety Net (PDF) (46 KB): A way of designing a plan for ensuring that customers are never stranded or placed at risk, even if illness or other unexpected circumstances occur.
  • Marketing (PDF) (112 KB): Outreach and education of the transit pass program that is critical for successful implementation.
  • Appeals Process (PDF) (79 KB): Considerations and protocols for setting guidelines for the times when customers or partners are not satisfied with the pass program or its requirements.
  • Technology (PDF) (128 KB): Technological solutions that can facilitate implementation. All of these can help meet the information and management needs of both the transit system and its human service agency partners.
  • Administration, Management and Accountability (PDF) (46 KB): Strategies and potential protocols for satisfying funding requirements, program conditions and quality assurance.
Transit Bus

To help you see how these elements relate to one another, we have identified three different models of transit pass partnership. You will see that we had to be a bit subjective in creating these models, but they do a good job at portraying the different ways in which public transit, human services and other community partners can have their interests come together in a transit pass partnership. These models are

  • Sponsored Customer (PDF) (48 KB): Human service agencies actively engage in the transit pass partnership to help achieve their programmatic goals and address their customers' program-related mobility needs.
  • Customer Convenience (PDF) (32 KB): The transit pass program is designed largely to facilitate individual customers' use of the transit system, including use by customers of human service agencies' activities.
  • Community Benefit (PDF) (82 KB): The transit pass partnership is designed to improve community or environmental benefits.

The Purpose of this Toolkit

In general, transit passes were created as a means to help public transit achieve its goal of moving large numbers of people quickly and effectively. By reducing the number of times individual passengers would have to make exact cash payments to use the system, transit could gain speed and efficiency. In addition, passes help transit agencies improve their cash flow and maintain improved system security.

Early in the history of transit systems' passes for their public clientele, major employers, universities and other large institutions realized that transit pass partnerships were an efficient, effective benefit for the public, and for students and employees. This advantage has gone on to help shape some strong partnerships between transit systems and human services programs.

Transit Bus

Human services programs (including health and medical services, social services, employment and training services and educational services) have realized that their needs to assure customer access and mobility also can be addressed through transit pass programs. Whether "low tech" or "high tech," passes are a way of promoting access to, and appropriate utilization of, services. They can help direct customers to the most affordable and appropriate means of transportation. Transit pass programs can be established in ways that reduce fraud and maintain accountability, making them far more desirable than systems of cash reimbursements or cash advances for human service agencies' customers. Transit passes are proving to be a central part of the Mobility Management strategies that many communities are developing as they expand, innovate and capitalize their local transportation programs and partnerships.

As you will see in this toolkit, transit pass partnerships can work with both fixed-route and various demand-response modes of transportation, including integration with paratransit or other customized transit services. Throughout the toolkit, you will see that transit pass partners can include a variety of agencies and, of course, include individual customers.

As part of the United We Ride initiative, 11 federal departments and agencies are working together to ensure that public transportation resources can be united effectively with the activities of federally funded human, social, employment, educational and medical services. Transit passes are one of the best strategies to help communities and customers achieve the major goals of United We Ride: (1) effective and efficient utilization of assets, (2) simplified access for customers and (3) increased customer satisfaction. For example, transit pass programs can be the means by which customers can benefit from the concept of "One Vision, One Call."

Even though transit pass programs can be the proverbial "win-win" partnership between public transit and human service agencies, these partners often have different needs and different motivations that bring them together in the partnership. That's why this toolkit is here. It is intended to help local or state-level transportation agencies come together with their human services counterparts and find the help they seek in crafting the kind of transit pass partnership that will work best for their community.

For More Information

Use the following tool, developed by the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California at Berkeley and Caltrans to help you decide if a transit pass program is right for your company:

We welcome your comments about how this toolkit is helping you create or improve transit pass partnerships in your community. Whether you have a comment on these materials, or a question on how to address your community's specific circumstances, send us an email by clicking on Contact Us at, or call our Information Station at (800) 527-8279. Either way, we will follow up promptly to the best of our ability.

About the Development of this Toolkit

This toolkit is a product of the National Resource Center for Human Service Transportation Coordination and the National Consortium on the Coordination of Human Services Transportation. It was developed through a cooperative agreement with the Federal Transit Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation. It was developed by the Community Transportation Association of America in the summer of 2007, in partnership with RLS and Associates. Any views, opinions or conclusions that are expressed or implicit in this toolkit are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect an official position of any agency of the United States Government. The United States Government assumes no liability for the contents of this toolkit or the use thereof.