WCTA’s ConnectCard system to be phased out
Westmoreland County Transit Authority’s troubled ConnectCard system, which allows riders to pay cashless fares via prepaid accounts, will be phased out over the next several months, officials announced Tuesday.
After years of planning, ConnectCard was finally implemented in early 2018. Almost immediately, it was besieged with technical issues.
“ConnectCard has been a disaster from the start. There have been communication issues with the contractor for over a year now, and they’ve provided us with no support,” said Meghan Yuhouse, the authority’s operations director.
The system was designed to allow riders to pre-load cash onto a card that is swiped when entering a bus. Fares are drawn down from the accounts, which can be reloaded online, at the transit center in Greensburg, and at six retail locations throughout the county.
The authority in 2013 paid $558,000 to Massachusetts-based Scheidt & Bachmann USA for the cashless fare system. Delays in finalizing a working version of the equipment pushed its launch back years.
Even after launched, the ConnectCard system continued to have technical issues that still have not been addressed, Yuhouse said. The authority has withheld a $30,000 annual payment for maintenance of the system in each of the past two years.
Officials said because the ConnectCard system was not well received by riders, it implemented a mobile ticketing application in which riders can pay fares through smartphones and other mobile devices. It went online in April. By July, it overtook ConnectCard as the second-most-used method of paying fares.
Cash is still the top choice. In August, more than 38% of riders used cash. The mobile application was used by nearly 36% of riders, while ConnectCard accounted for 26%, according to the authority.
Yuhouse said ConnectCard equipment will be removed from two Giant Eagle locations in Hempfield and one in Latrobe at the end of October. Retail sales will be halted at the Irwin Giant Eagle in November and at the Sheetz location on Carpenter Lane in North Huntingdon, adjacent to the authority’s park-and-ride lot, at the end of December.
For now, ConnectCards can still be used and riders can reload accounts in person at the transit center in Greensburg and online via the authority’s website, Yuhouse said.
Eventually, the ConnectCard system will be discontinued.
“The plan is to get rid of the ConnectCard when the next fare increase is approved,” Yuhouse said.
The authority last raised bus fares in 2014. No increases will be considered until at least next summer, she said.
Meanwhile, the authority will continue to push the mobile app, in which riders who qualify for subsidized and reduced fares can use their mobile devices to purchase bus tickets starting Oct. 1.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .