(KCPW News) The Utah Transit Authority will launch a new high-tech fare collection system on buses and at TRAX and Frontrunner platforms this Thursday. The tap-on, tap-off system is not only more convenient, will keep more accurate ridership counts, according to UTA Spokeswoman Carrie Bohnsack-Ware.
"We're going to be able to track ridership so much better so that we can provide that much better service," she says. "So it's really going to help the riders in the long run so that we can kind of cut back in the areas that service isn't doing as well and then provide more service to areas where it's needed."
The public-private agency was criticized earlier this year by advocates concerned the agency had cut service for disabled customers based on faulty ridership data. Bohnsack-Ware says this new system of counting riders will be much more accurate. It lets riders pay fares with newer credit and debit cards that are imbedded with contactless chip technology. They can also use pre-paid student ID's and electronic passes. The information will help determine which routes need more service, and which ones can be scaled back.
The new system could also be used in the future to give riders real-time information about bus and train schedules.
"This just really opens up a wide variety of technological advances that we'll be able to more easily adapt to and install in our system to make everybody's ride easier, and more pleasant, and more reliable and more efficient," she says.
While the agency is facing possible service cuts this year due to slumping sales tax revenue, Bohnsack-Ware says the expensive $10 million system was approved several years ago. And, she believes it will eventually pay for itself in increased ridership because of the convenience of paying with plastic.