Port Authority fair box test over

By Alex Oltmanns

It was a smooth ride for Port Authority’s test run of new fare-collection equipment, and… It was a smooth ride for Port Authority’s test run of new fare-collection equipment, and students will now have to tap their ID cards to board a bus once the new system takes effect in August.

The four-week trial program, which ended last Friday, tested new technology that uses fare boxes to read microchips in student ID cards as passengers board the buses.

Port Authority spokesman Jim Ritchie praised the results of the trial. “It went well. It went as we expected it to,” Ritchie said.

The pilot process tested the cards of about 220 participants — all Pitt students and staff — who had the chip in their IDs activated to see if the fare box systems could accurately read them.

Ritchie said the problem with the old system was that, with so many cardholders often boarding the bus at once, the driver had no way of knowing which IDs were expired.

“Once you’re no longer a valid ID holder at the University, you don’t get to use the system in that way anymore,” Ritchie said. “During the course of the year, students come and go. Students graduate, faculty comes and goes, so there needs to be an accurate system in place between the University and Port Authority that lets our system know who is a valid ID holder and who is not a valid ID holder.”

“The system is in place so that the fare boxes will recognize those changes,” he said, although he didn’t know exactly how the process for expired cards would work or how cards would be deactivated once the expiration date hits.

Under the old system, people with a valid Pitt ID, who include faculty, staff and current students, would simply flash their card to the driver and proceed onto the bus. The new system now requires card holders to swipe their card as they pass the fare box. The system is also designed to speed up the process of students boarding buses.

“I think it takes a lot less time to tap your card and continue walking onto the vehicle than it does to slide a couple dollars and some change into the fare box,” Ritchie said.

But Pitt students aren’t in total agreement.

What Ritchie failed to add was that students do not take the time to pay the driver; they simply have to flash their ID and walk away — a process that takes only seconds.

“I think it will definitely take more time for a machine to read your ID,” senior Kevin Francis said. “I ride the bus to work all the time and don’t see a real problem with the way it is right now.”

Fellow Pitt student Andy Kalas — a rising graduate student — said he thinks the system is a welcome improvement, but has some drawbacks as well.

“I think the new setup is a good idea, but I feel like there may be some problems with it,” Kalas said. “What would they do if a student’s card didn’t work correctly or something? That would hold things up, and I would hate to see a student not be able to get transportation due to machine failure.”