By Mia Crow
A way to pay for public transportation called the “Connect Card,” a personal smartcard for riders to debit fares, has been tested in the marketplace since last spring and transit officials hope to launch this electronic pay process throughout the system in the near future.
Port Authority hopes the new Connect Card, which will have ATM-like machines placed near stops all over the region, will provide more convenience to riders to buy and load bus fare when it is fully implemented.
“There are about 500 riders who were selected fairly recently to participate in this test. The riders were given the connect card with different monthly, weekly and cash options,” said Heather Pharo Port Authority spokeswoman. The vending machines are part of a pilot program that began in March of this year. Participants will use the machines to test how well they work when loading and reloading the card and for checking their balance. Annual pass holders are also among the test groups, they have been sent a connect card to replace the paper bus passes, they will also help PAT monitor the cash fare boxes on the buses.
The Connect Card, a plastic smart card with a computer chip will be used to replace paper bus passes and tickets. It provides a variety of fare options and allows customers to load money for additional zone fares. The benefit for PAT is that it will help them capture lost revenue by preventing fraud and theft, and save on the cost of printing bus passes and tickets. For its customers, they will be able to load and reload their cards online as well as the vending machines. PAT will partner with other retail businesses to sell the Connect Card and finally customers can register their cards. This will protect their fares and cash balances if lost or stolen, according to Ms. Pharo.
After learning about the card’s purpose LaCiane Estes said she would definitely use it. “I won’t have to go downtown or Giant Eagle for a bus pass. I like the convenience of loading my card online or in one of those machines,” she said. Others still didn’t know what the service is because PAT won’t begin to market it in earnest until after the pilot program has been successfully completed and all of the kinks worked out.
“I thought it was an ATM machine,” said Rachel Mells at the Wilkinsburg bus way as she looked over the bulky machined that resembles the parking machines seen in parking garages. “I don’t even know what the Connect Card is about.” Ms. Pharo explains that there is no set launch date as of yet, but more information will follow the completion of the pilot program at the end of next month. Because the pilot program is still in the developing phase, there is no set amount to pay for the Connect Card; the test groups only pay the price of their fare for the moment. More information including informational videos about the Connect Card can be found on its website at http://www.connectcard.org.