CDTA shared a few more details today about the fare payment system that's in the works. The transit org will be pilot testing the system this year, and could start rolling it out by the end of 2015.
A few bits about the upcoming "Navigator" smart cards:
+ The paper fare cards CDTA currently uses will be replaced by plastic smart cards with a computer chip embedded in them. CDTA says a card can last as long as three years.
+ The Navigator cards will act either like the current rolling 31-day swiper pass, or like a debit card for fares. You'll be able to load money on to the cards and buy rides with it. And the rides will have a small discount compared to paying with cash -- $1.30 per ride for the first three rides in a day, and then rides four and up are free for the day. (The current cash fare for regular routes is $1.50 per ride. And a day pass is $4.)
+ Because the cards will be connected to an account, the funds on the card can be refilled automatically (kind of like E-ZPass.) If you lose the card, you'll be able to get a replacement and not lose the fare value connected to the card. Also: Multiple cards can be connected to an account, so for example, you could have one card for yourself and another for your child, and manage them via the same account.
+ There will also be Navigator mobile app (for iOS and Android) that will work in similar way to the smart cards. You'll be able to just scan your phone at the fare box on the bus.
Jonathan Scherzer, CDTA's director of marketing, told us today that about 50 percent of people who ride the bus do using a pre-paid fare card of some sort. He said CDTA is hoping the new system will increase that percentage.
Admittedly without seeing the system in action yet, it sounds like Navigator will be step a up in terms of ease of ease and convenience. That might be especially true if you're a semi-regular rider. If you can, essentially, load a few bucks onto your phone for the bus, you don't have to worry about being able to find your fare card or digging up cash. (And, you know, you probably always have your phone.)
As we said before, there are a lot of good things about riding the bus -- hey, someone is doing the driving for you -- and, if you have the choice, it's something worth considering more often. But the experience is not without the occasional snag. And as CDTA continues to build up its service -- especially with the planned expansion of BusPlus -- eliminating some of those points of friction could help get more people on board.
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