Public Transit

decorative background

Contactless Payment Options Introduced In The Tri-County Region On Santa Barbara County Public Transit Systems

July 26, 2021

Clean Air Express and Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District give customers options to “tap to ride” as a result of a California Integrated Travel Project contactless payment demonstration.

Santa Barbara, Calif. – Contactless payment options are being introduced on Clean Air Express buses and on a selection of Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District (MTD) buses starting today, Monday, July 26, 2021.

The innovative fare payment system is being made available as part of a six-month demonstration with the California Integrated Travel Project (Cal-ITP), an initiative of the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) and California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to simplify travel by increasing access to public transit—including easier, faster payments via contactless credit/debit/prepaid cards and mobile wallets on smart devices.

The contactless payment system for Santa Barbara MTD and Clean Air Express is the first to be introduced among public transit providers in the Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo tri-county region and one of the first three systems to be deployed statewide. The tap-to-ride system uses cutting-edge fare payment technology provided by specialist partners Littlepay, Kuba, Cybersource, and Elavon.

“Older fare collection systems create unnecessary barriers for people to ride and choose transit,” said Marjie Kirn, executive director of SBCAG, which operates the Clean Air Express. “With the new contactless payment system, customers can now pay their fare the same way they can buy a coffee or groceries by simply tapping a credit, debit card, or using a mobile wallet on a smart phone or watch with no registration or account setup needed.”

In addition to Visa and MasterCard credit and debit cards with tap-to-pay capabilities, mobile payments options include Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, and Fitbit Pay. While registration or account setup will not be required to use the system, an online portal will be available to all customers paying with a card who need a receipt or would like to check their recent rides and fare payments.

“We are excited to introduce this convenient payment option for our riders,” said Jerry Estrada, general manager of Santa Barbara MTD. “We’re piloting this technology on ten of our buses, serving Lines 12x and 24x. This means you’ll be able to get to UCSB, Downtown Santa Barbara, Camino Real Marketplace, and Old Town Goleta with a simple tap of a card or device.”

Clean Air Express and Santa Barbara MTD customers will see contactless payment readers installed at the front of the designated buses. If a customer’s debit or credit card is valid and has the contactless symbol on it or if they use a mobile payment option, they can tap it on the payment reader, look for a green checkmark on the payment reader’s screen, and take a seat to ride.

“Much of our goal is a more modern and consistent transportation experience throughout California,” said Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin. “Allowing riders to pay for transit with the same methods they use elsewhere not only increases efficiency and mobility, but also reduces barriers to using public transportation.”

Automatic fare capping enables both transit providers to offer riders the ability to pay-as-they-go to receive multi-ride discounts when riders tap to pay with the same contactless payment card or device throughout the day or within a 30-day period.

Santa Barbara MTD customers pay the standard adult fare of $1.75 simply by tapping their card or device. Riders using the same payment card or device with the new system will automatically not be charged more than $6 a day or $52 in a 30-day period, which is equivalent to purchasing a one-day or 30-day pass. As an example, if a rider takes four or more trips in one day using a same card or device, the new system will only charge the rider $6 total for the day. Santa Barbara MTD buses with the contactless payment capability will have a special decal next to the front door of the bus, labeled with “Tap to Pay” and the contactless indicator symbol.

Clean Air Express customers using the contactless payment system will be charged $6, a $1 discount from the standard $7 one-way cash fare. Existing Clean Air Express multi-ride fare discounts are honored with the new system, with riders automatically not being charged more than $10 per day—or $150 over 30 days—when using the same payment card or device.

Clean Air Express and Santa Barbara MTD still accept physical passes and cash payments. The contactless payment option is just one more way to pay a fare—and to do so in a quick, secure way on both transit providers.

Together, the adjoining transit providers are making it simpler for Central Coast riders to travel along U.S. 101 and into and around Santa Barbara’s North and South Counties. Whether a day-tripper or a commuter, a North County rider can tap to enjoy a scenic coastline ride on Clean Air Express, transferring in Goleta or Santa Barbara to tap onto a Santa Barbara MTD bus to continue to ride seamlessly to South Coast workplaces, restaurants, shops, and beaches.

About Clean Air Express

The Clean Air Express is operated by SBCAG and funded by Measure A, Santa Barbara County’s Transportation Sales Tax measure, to serve residents of Northern Santa Barbara County commuting to jobs in Goleta and Santa Barbara. The service features a fleet of 17 charter-style buses. Clean Air Express provides a fast, convenient, and money-saving way to get to work. The service currently operates a limited schedule due to COVID-19, operating 18 one-way trips each weekday, down from 26. The Clean Air Express serves an average of 7,000 riders per month. The service eliminates as much as 400,000 vehicle miles traveled from the County’s roads each month, helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the region.

For complete information and answers to frequently asked questions about the tap-to-ride contactless payment service, visit For schedule information, visit

About Santa Barbara MTD

Santa Barbara MTD is the public transit provider for a 52 square mile area of Southern Santa Barbara County, serving the communities of Santa Barbara, Goleta, Carpinteria, Montecito, Summerland, and Isla Vista. MTD provides 6.4 million passenger trips annually, and operates a fleet of 112 transit vehicles. The mission of Santa Barbara MTD is to enhance the mobility of South Coast residents, commuters, and visitors by offering safe, appealing, equitable, environmentally responsible, and fiscally sound transit service.

For complete information on MTD’s pilot and to get answers to frequently asked questions, visit For schedule information, visit


The California Integrated Travel Project (Cal-ITP) was established by the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) and California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to simplify travel across California. There are hundreds of public transit providers in California, with no single system for collecting fares, verifying eligibility for fare discounts, or providing up-to-date vehicle arrival information to riders. This lack of uniformity creates barriers for new riders, complicates travel across different systems, and increases expenses for individual providers. Cal-ITP is working with transit providers to build a modern and consistent travel experience for Californians of all incomes, ages, and abilities—by enabling contactless, open-loop payments, automating customer discounts, and standardizing information for easy multimodal trip planning.
For more information, visit

Sign up for the latest news

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.