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TARC Preparing to Launch New Fare System

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Taking a step toward modernization, TARC is beginning the process of changing the way it collects fares from bus passengers.

Bus drivers and officials are working through the training and testing process, said Jon Reiter, spokesman for the transit authority.

Reiter wouldn't say exactly when the new fare collection system will be implemented on the nearly 260 TARC buses operating in the Louisville Metro area, but he said the system could be used as soon as July.

Reiter said "it's time" to update the way TARC collects fares.

"There might be a couple of bumps to start with, but in the end it's going to better boarding and more rider convenience," he said.

The current fare collection system is nearly 20 years old, Reiter said, an only accepts paper tickets, cash or coin.

The new system will still accept exact fare using  cash and coin, but will also accept "smartcards," Reiter said.

The smartcards will be available "in the same way that tickets and passes are now available," according to information provided by TARC.

Initially, they will be free. Replacement cards will cost $5, according to TARC. The cards will not be sold on buses.

Passengers with cards will pay $1.50 per ride, compared to $1.75 for those without the cards, Reiter said. Card value can be reloaded online or in person at TARC headquarters. There will be a $100 maximum stored value on the smartcards. Passengers will be able to see how much money they have left on the card each time the board, if they wish, according to information from TARC.

But with the addition of the cards, TARC officials are also nixing the ability for a passenger paying with cash or coin to transfer at no cost, Reiter said. To transfer, a passenger must have a smartcard.

Reiter said this change is for efficiency sake.

Another new addition to the fare system will be a seven-day pass, which will be available for $15, according to TARC information.

Other passes, like a day pass or monthly pass, will remain available at the current cost.

Passengers who qualify for reduced fares, such as students, youth or those older than 65 will be required to pick-up a smartcard from TARC headquarters.

TARC3 vehicles—which provide public transportation for people with disabilities who cannot use regular fixed-route bus service—will not initially be a part of the new fare collection system.

The cost of the new system will be about $4.9 million, according to information provided by TARC. The costs will be covered by a $2.5 million Federal Transit Administration grant and a $1.5 million in federal surface transportation funds from the Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. TARC will contribute the remaining funds of about $900,000.

Debra Smith-Seadler, a frequent TARC rider, said she likes the idea of the new fare collection system.

"It's going to be a nice change," she said. "It's going to cut down on people cheating TARC by tossing their transfer out the window to somebody else."

She also expects the new system to make buses more efficient.

"It'll be nice to just scan a card rather than trying to stick that little ticket into the slot, or dollar bills into the slot," she added.

Jimmie Reed, who rides TARC nearly every day, said she'll be getting a smartcard, rather than pay with cash or coin, once the new system rolls out.

"You're not going to have no choice," she said. "Especially if you want to transfer."

The details of the new fare collection system come as TARC is planning to cut service to it's three busiest routes along Fourth Street, Broadway, Preston and Dixie Highway.

A recent loss of about $1.2 million in federal grant funds is sparking the service reduction.

Reiter said TARC is not in the position to use general funds to make up that $1.2 million shortfall.

Jacob Ryan joined LPM in 2014. Ryan is originally from Eddyville, Kentucky. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.