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Port Authority moves closer to Connect Card transition

By Mia Crow

Point Park News Service

A new method of paying for public transportation called the Connect Card has been tested in the marketplace since last spring and transit officials hope to launch this electronic pay process soon.

Port Authority (PAT) 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 Connect Card, a plastic smart card with a computer chip embedded, 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 paper bus passes and tickets.

The vending machines are part of a pilot program that began in March 2012. Participants will use the machines to test how well they work when loading and reloading the card and to check their balance. Annual pass holders are among the test groups and have been sent a connect card to replace the paper bus passes. They will help PAT monitor the cash fare boxes on the buses.

Customers will be able to load and reload their cards online as well as at the vending machines. PAT will partner with other retail businesses to sell the Connect Card. This will protect their fares and cash balances if lost or stolen, according to 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,” Estes said.

 Others still don’t know what the service is because PAT won’t begin to market it until after the pilot program has been successfully completed.

“I thought it was an ATM machine,” said Rachel Mells, as she looked over the machines at the Wilkinsburg bus way. “I don’t even know what the Connect Card is about.”

Pharo explained 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

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2 thoughts on “Port Authority moves closer to Connect Card transition

  1. Carolyn Hickman

    The PAT Transit connect cards are unreliable, and if one fails on your way to work you will be at the mercy of the bus operator and worse there is no quick fix to solve the problem of a malfunctioning card. Anyway, here’s my story. On Friday 12/07/12, I had a Giant Eagle add a weekly pass to my Connect Card. Sunday and Monday, 12/10/12 – 12/11/12, the card worked as expected and then on Wednesday, I boarded a 82 Lincoln bus to go to work and the weekly pass did not display on the fare box and only stated insufficient funds. I explained to the bus driver that I just used this card last night and the card worked fine and that I indeed have a weekly pass. My explanation was not accepted by the bus operator and I was told to get off her bus. I reiterated my explanation that I have a weekly pass and that something is wrong. The bus driver continued to try to kick me off the bus and then said if you don’t get off my bus I’ll have the police take you off my bus. I told her I am not getting off the bus because I already paid and the card is malfunctioning. I even told her when we got downtown I would investigate the card problem with the Smithfield Ave PAT Transit sales office. Nothing appeased this woman. I wanted to get to work, other people wanted to get to work, but as the driver stated, “I’m sick of you people and those cards,” she was determined to make an example out of me and I hadn’t done a think wrong. Well let me just say things continued to escalate as that driver continued to spin out of control. After exiting that bus and then taking a 71C, the downtown sales office couldn’t help me, they said there isn’t a weekly pass on this card and I experience more rude treatment, but nothing as bad as what that 82 Bus driver dissed-out to me. I explained that customer service, which I called by phone, said that they could see my transit activity on my card and that the card was functioning as a weekly pass yesterday. Even with this evidence of an obvious malfunctioning of the card, no one at PAT Transit would offer to help or to give me a temporary solution so that I could get to work. Instead I was late and experienced a lot of bad treatment, all thanks to one of those Connect Cards. By the way, did I mention that I had a previous Connect Card. That’s right I was part of the pilot program. That card failed upon the first loading at the Smithfield Ave PAT sales office. The lady wanted me to take the somewhat malfunctioning card. She said it should be all right, my card machine shows that the weekly pass is there, but the problem was that when we tried it on the fare box in the sales office, it didn’t show the pass at all. So, for me have had two failed cards and I’m only a single person. This is a message to all of you, do not trust these cards. They are far from being ready for implementation. And what was the outcome from that second Connect Card, I had to travel back home, get my Giant Eagle receipts, travel to Giant Eagle, exchange my Connect Card for a paper weekly pass, and of course I was late to work. My final comment is why couldn’t PAT transit reactivate my card with a weekly pass for 24 hours, so that I could get through the day with less interruption to my daily commute routine. After all, those Connect Cards can be turned on and off at the will of PAT Transit, that’s part of the theft protection built into the card. So, when they state that their resolution process for a failed Connect Card is adequate, I firmly disagree. Based on the current resolution procedure and my personal experience, why would anyone want to trade a paper PAT Transit pass for an electronic one? I would answer one shouldn’t unless they want to be late to where they planned to go and want to take the chance of encountering someone like that 82 Bus driver for all sorts of maltreatment.

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