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Port Authority expects ConnectCard system to pick up

Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Port Authority customer service manager John Beeler, 46, of North Fayette, helps Rhonda Whethers, 31, of Point Breeze operate the ConnectCard machine at the Port Authority Downtown Retail Center on Thursday, January 3, 2012.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Port Authority customer service manager John Beeler, 46, of North Fayette, helps Rhonda Whethers, 31, of Point Breeze operate the ConnectCard machine at the Port Authority Downtown Retail Center on Thursday, January 3, 2012.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - People wait in line at the Port Authority Downtown Retail Center to buy ConnectCards for their weekly commutes on Thursday, January 3, 2012.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>People wait in line at the Port Authority Downtown Retail Center to buy  ConnectCards for their weekly commutes on Thursday, January 3, 2012.

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Port Authority of Allegheny County said it has sold more than 4,300 ConnectCard weekly passes since making them available two weeks ago.

Officials expect to sell about 3,800 passes each week, though fewer people bought them since the Dec. 20 start because the transit agency is selling the cards at only three locations and traffic fell during the year-end holidays, said spokesman Jim Ritchie.

“We haven't received many complaints. Mostly, we're responding to questions about when we'll enhance our service,” Ritchie said, adding customers want to know when they will be able to manage ConnectCards online or use them for transfers.

Port Authority hasn't set a date for either improvement.

The ConnectCard system allows riders to tap prepaid plastic cards on electronic readers to pay fares. University of Pittsburgh students and employees started using the $33 million system in August 2011, followed by annual pass-holders in March and monthly pass-holders in November.

Weekly passes are available at Port Authority's Downtown service center and at Giant Eagle stores in Shadyside and the South Side. The agency intends to expand sales to more than 50 Giant Eagle stores and other retail outlets. Customers can replenish cards at more than 40 vending machines at T light-rail stations, busway stops and Giant Eagles across the county. Ultimately, they'll be able to do so online.

Port Authority plans to offer more convenient ConnectCards within a month, Ritchie said. Instead of having a pass for a set period of time, customers will be able to deposit money onto a card and electronic card readers will deduct money from their balance each time they ride.

This spring, Port Authority will start selling Connectix, or temporary paper tickets that customers could use with the electronic readers as weekly or 10-trip passes.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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