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Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

When fares to ride Westmoreland County Transit Authority buses increase early next year, passengers won't necessarily have to dig for more cash to pay their way.

They'll have the option of using plastic instead of paper money and coins.

The authority will begin accepting fares using a computerized CollectCard system that has been in operation for about a year on Port Authority of Allegheny County buses.

“This will be a very accurate way to collect fares and record ridership,” said Lori Brkovich, the authority's marketing director.

Card readers were installed in all of the authority's more than 40 buses last month as part of a $620,000 project to upgrade the collection system. The equipment will be used to collect passenger data through the end of the year.

The collection system will go live for passengers in early 2014, Brkovich said.

The authority is waiting for the Port Authority to roll out its regional electronic fare collection system, as both transit systems will use the same equipment.

Brkovich said once the system is in use, passengers will be able to load cash value on plastic cards and pay fares on the buses by touching the card to a reader.

The cards can be loaded at the authority's transit center in Greensburg, a downtown Pittsburgh location and at Giant Eagle stores that sell Westmoreland County Transit Authority bus passes.

Eventually, riders will be able to buy fare credits from their home computers, Brkovich said.

Port Authority riders have been using the CollectCard system since last year.

“It has been well received, and people are realizing it's faster and easier,” said Port Authority spokesman Jim Ritchie.

Westmoreland transit officials said that once the electronic collection system is operational, passengers still will be able to pay fares with cash.

Fares will go up Jan. 1 as part of a two-phase increase approved last year.

Last fall, board members approved a 33 percent increase in bus fares that required riders to pay 25 cents more this year for every zone of travel on the system.

At that time, the authority approved a secondary increase to begin in 2014 that raises fares another 25 cents per zone.

In 2014, a one-zone trip, which includes routes between Latrobe and Greensburg, Jeannette and Greensburg and Lower Burrell and New Kensington will cost $2; a two-zone trip, such as Irwin to Greensburg or Delmont to Pittsburgh, will cost $4; and a three-zone trip, including the Greensburg to Pittsburgh route, will cost $6.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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