Yesterday SunRail began selling SunCards. You can either add a travel plan (seven-day, 30-day or annual) or you can add a prepaid amount to your SunCard that will be debited every time your ride. You can read our complete guide to the SunRail fare system here.

One question everyone is trying to figure out is if they should add stored value or purchase a plan and which plan they should purchase.

To help figure this out, we built a spreadsheet to analyze the different options. We assume that for every day you ride SunRail you will be making one round trip. We also factor in pre-paid 10% bonus you get when you pre-load your SunCard.

Here’s what we came up with:

If you plan to take SunRail and only SunRail (not transfer to/from Lynx) and plan to make at least four round-trips a week, you should purchase a 30-day pass. Thirty-day passes save you about $23, $34 or $45 a month, depending on how many counties you are traveling and if you travel twice each day. Even if you only travel four days a week, you will still save $6 – $12 each month. If you don’t think you will be taking SunRail four times or more each week then you will lose money by purchasing a 30-day pass.

If you plan to take SunRail every day but you are also relying on Lynx for a portion of your trip you should pay full fare using a prepaid SunCard. Right now there isn’t a regional pass for SunRail and Lynx.

When it comes to weekly passes if you are only traveling in one county and you know you will be riding it twice a day then purchase a weekly pass and save just over $1 that week. For a two or three county weekly pass you can save $2-3.

As for the annual pass, this would only be for those who are really serious about riding SunRail. The savings are great if you pre-pay for the year. Essentially you are paying for ten months and getting two free. That’s $112 to $224 in savings each year off the monthly pass. It’s worth it if you know you are going to use it on a regular basis for more than ten months.

If you are looking to just try it SunRail we recommend purchasing a SunCard stored value card and put around $20 on it (that’s actually the default when you load it online). This also allows you to eventually be able to use it on Lynx. We think that’s important because riding the train is fun, there are many more bus routes and most of them run more frequently than SunRail.

If you put stored value on your SunCard you can opt to add a 30-day (or seven-day or annual) plan to your SunCard at a later date. You’ll keep your stored value and be able to use it for trips that aren’t covered by your plan (e.g. more counties or Lynx fare) or once your plan expires.

If you want to compare the savings on the different types of passes vs paying full fare with a stored value card you can do so using this spreadsheet. All you have to do is change how many days each week you plan to ride SunRail.

Let us know what type of fare you plan to purchase.

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