Pitt recruits volunteers to test Port Authority’s new fareboxes

By Tegan Hanlon

Several hundred Pitt students and staff will soon try out the Port Authority’s new farebox… Several hundred Pitt students and staff will soon try out the Port Authority’s new farebox “tapping” system.

The system’s testing period, during which Pitt ID users will tap their cards on fare boxes instead of showing their IDs to bus drivers, will take place May 16 – June 17.

Pitt spokesman John Fedele said in an e-mail that 125 participants have already volunteered. University administrators aims to have several hundred faculty and staff participants signed up by the trial period.

The new fare boxes will not only change the way that Pitt students access Port Authority, it will also open up the “tapping” possibility to all other riders.

Port Authority spokesman Jim Ritchie said riders will be able to buy fare cards that they can charge with money from their home computers or stations similar to vending machines, which will be installed throughout the city. Once a rider taps her card, bus fare will be automatically deducted from the card’s balance.

“For us [Port Authority], it makes riding a lot easier,” Ritchie said. “It makes it simpler and more attractive … you don’t have to use cash anymore.”

Ritchie said the new fare boxes, installed in phases over the last year, will go into full effect in the late summer or early fall. Although the tap boxes will weed out invalid Pitt IDs being used for free bus rides, Ritchie said that’s “not a goal of smart cards.”

The boxes will read the chips located in Pitt ID cards, which were inserted in 2009 when the University changed from the classic horizontal Pitt IDs to vertical ones.

“The University and Port Authority have been discussing their transition to this new technology for over a year,” Fedele said. “Port Authority has been good about keeping the University informed of their schedule throughout this technological upgrade.”

The change over to smart card technology may also affect the contract between Port Authority and the University; however, Fedele said no negotiations are scheduled at this time.

“Implementing the new fare boxes triggers a reopener clause in the contract,” Fedele said.

Ritchie said that the two groups are “not renegotiating anything,” but will discuss the next agreement soon, as the current contract is set to expire June 30 of next year.

Volunteers will record in an online form the bus routes they take, the buses’ stops and the durations of their rides. Students, staff and faculty can sign up through Panther Central by sending an email to [email protected]