Quick quiz- if you needed a bus pass right this minute, where's the nearest place to your house to buy one? How about your work? Do you know?
Bus pass distribution in the majority of the RTA service area, as in many suburban areas, is disproportionately concentrated at two sorts of establishments: liquor/convenience stores and check cashing shops. You can also purchase them at RTA's two offices in Riverside and Hemet, and at a few senior centers, city halls, and community service agencies, but those first two are the most prevalent. What does that say about how we think about transit?
Well, none of these establishments exactly screams upper-class, and check-cashing stores are explicitly targeted at the working poor, so there's a bit of classism for you. Furthermore, they're not the sort of places that many people would ordinarily find themselves at during the course of their day-to-day errands. Compare this with, for example, San Francisco, where you can reload your Clipper card at any Wallgreens (and a great many other grocery stores besides), or even Orange County, where you can pick up your bus pass at Ralph's when buying groceries.
Now, if you live in Riverside, you really should be buying your pass at the Public Works Department at City Hall, where you can get substantial discounts (and sign up for a pass by mail). But even then, why is this program limited to only one location in the City, only during normal business hours? How many people would find getting down to enroll in this program difficult, and why can't we handle enrollment via mail, and distribution via other outlets?
Obviously, I have a suggestion: automated pass machines at major transit centers. If you ride transit around here, odds are you'll probably end up passing through Moreno Valley Mall, Downtown Terminal, or Tyler Mall transit center at some point during your travels. How much easier would life be on the transit-dependent if, while waiting for their next bus, they could walk over to a machine and purchase their next pass? SunLine Transit in the Coachella Valley has one of these machines at their major transfer point, and they utilize a similar ticketing system to RTA. People seem to be able to figure out automated ticketing machines at the Metrolink station, and RTA's fare system is much less complicated. So how about it?