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TARC Cancels Contract With Electronic Fare System Company

Persistent problems with the rollout of a new fare collection system have prompted TARC officials to cancel their contract with the system's maker.

The move comes after months of testing an electronic fare collection system transit authority officials had hoped to introduce last year.

"We're very disappointed," said Barry Barker, executive director of TARC.

Barker called the collection system — made by Japanese manufacturer LECIP — an inferior product. Officials with LECIP did not immediately return a request for comment.

Canceling the contract means introducing the electronic fare collection system will be delayed yet again. It's now entirely unclear when the new payment system will be available the public transit users in Louisville.

Barker stressed, however, that he is not abandoning the idea of adding electronic fare collection on the some 260 buses operated by TARC in Louisville. The transit authority will begin searching for a new electronic fare system manufacturer in the coming months, he said.

The current fare collection system is nearly 20 years old and only accepts paper tickets, cash or coins. Barker said an electronic system would "bring a new level of usability" to the city's sole public transit provider.

The electronic system was set to accept smartcards, on which riders could store up to $100 in fare. The new system also would have lowered the cost of bus fare by 25 cents for riders using the cards.

Barker said the electronic fare system was riddled with complications.

He said paper money would consistently jam, and other parts of the collection box would easily break. There were also numerous software issues, leading to headaches and stress that made the program infeasible.

TARC officials signed the contract with LECIP in 2013 and paid $3 million of the $5 million agreed to, Barker said. He said he wants to recoup some of the funds for what he called non-performance on behalf of LECIP. He said he is considering a lawsuit against the manufacturer.

Barker said it's tough to walk away from an effort in which the transit authority had already invested so much time and money. He said the final straw came when he requested a number of issues be resolved by a certain date, and the manufacturer failed to do so.

"You like to be on the cutting edge, not the bleeding edge," he said. "And where we found ourselves was on the bleeding edge."

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.