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 www.connectcard.org.