Passin’ Through: Transit Pass Enthusiast Alex Harmon Visits Austin

“While having digital fare options is great in modern times,
if there’s the option to get a physical pass or schedule, I am for it!”

Earlier this year, San Francisco resident Alex Harmon flew to Austin to visit his aunt and cousin. He shared photos of his visit on X, highlighting a few trips on the CapMetro system, including Route 20 to and from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Route 20 operates 7 days a week as part of our fixed route bus service. It starts at the airport and heads down Riverside Drive into downtown and serves the University of Texas campus.

We see this post on social media a lot. What caught our eye though, was that he swung by the Transit Store downtown to grab a physical AMP card. The AMP card features fare capping, allowing customers to pay per ride instead of forking over the full cost of a daily or monthly pass up front. It was great to see a customer sharing their experience using the new fare payment option.

The team was intrigued that Alex opted for the physical card when it’s available virtually on the CapMetro App. Alex revealed the purpose behind his trip to the store; adding the AMP card to his transit pass collection. What!? A transit pass collection!? Excited about this news of a near-archaic public transit memorabilia collection, we reached out to learn more and found Alex eager to share plenty about his public transit fandom and of course, his pass collection. As a bonus, we had him to dream up a custom pass based on his Austin trip and sent it to him to add to his collection.

Thanks for riding, Alex!

CapMetro: When did you start collecting transit passes? What agencies does it include?

My earliest bit of transit-based collecting were BART brochures as a kid in the late 90s. My dad would give me one along our rides back then and it was great looking/reading material. That led me to keeping more materials from my rides growing up.

We have many different transit agencies in the Bay Area itself, so it was easy to obtain items from Muni in San Francisco and the others.

As an adult, I make an effort to get around other major cities via their public transit including Los Angeles, Seattle, Sacramento, Honolulu, New York City, Phoenix, Denver and now Austin. I grab a little something from each system I ride that makes a great souvenir.

Do you collect anything else?

When it comes to public transit, I do have various brochures, maps, schedules, transfers, merch and such. BART, our rapid transit metro system in the Bay Area recently retired their legacy fleet. I have two number plates from decommissioned trains that ended up being recycled and scrapped.

Beyond public transit, I am a keeper of event tickets, magnets and various souvenirs.

How do you store your collectibles?

I have a couple bins with items stored. Eventually, I got a shelf to display some and an album to put smaller paper tickets in.

What are a few of your favorite transit passes in your collection?

I’m big on nostalgia, so it would have to be the passes that are no longer offered or a map from a route that’s been changed, etc.

I have many BART tickets with minimal value still on them. I would purposely add a few more cents when they had special designs on the back so I could save them. It was worth it as paper tickets have been recently discontinued in favor of Clipper cards.

Tell us a little about yourself and what brought you to Austin, TX?

I grew up and still reside in the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area. Think Oakland and the surrounding suburban cities across the bay from San Francisco.

I work in radio, where I’m behind the scenes on the promotions and digital side for four Bay Area radio stations. For fun, I enjoy being outside and seeing what is out there. Catch me on a bike ride, photo taking or being a foodie. Let’s just say I am not much of a homebody.

What brought me to Austin was visiting my aunt and cousin who now reside there. This was my second time in Austin within the last year and my first time experiencing CapMetro.

While we stayed around downtown and the university, I really enjoyed my experience on CapMetro. Riding the 20 from the airport and back. The 1, 3, 30 and the 801 got us around where we were staying. Had to make a stop by the Transit Store for an AMP card. I look forward to exploring some more when returning!

Why do you enjoy using public transit?

While I do drive, it’s great to not be car dependent. Getting around via train or bus offers great flexibility along my commute or between errands and activities. Being a people person, I also enjoy the community within the systems. When embraced, public transit is a part of a city’s culture that many can relate to.

As a visitor, it is a great way to get a better feel of a city. I prefer to use public transit to get around a new place. Get yourself a day pass and explore. It’s also great to have Google Maps and Transit App to assist.

What are some of your favorite public transit systems, either national or international?

I do still have a lot more exploring to do! BART and AC Transit are what I grew up on and am an expert at getting around on.

I was really impressed riding the subway in New York City. I enjoyed experiencing the true big city vibes you hear about. It really is a world of its own underground.

Based on your Austin, TX trip, what would you include in the design of a custom pass?

Some designs featuring bats, the capitol and music. That is what comes to mind when I think of memorable Austin icons.