June 2, 2010

PATH tests 'tap-and-go' PayPass card

Customers on the Port Authority's PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) rail system now can simply "tap and go" with their credit cards under a regional six-month pilot program that began this week.

Eleven of PATH's 13 stations have been equipped with special payment readers, allowing riders to tap a contactless credit card or other device like a key fob to pay fares.

The Port Authority is partnering with NJ Transit, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), along with MasterCard Worldwide, to help test seamless travel using one card on the three agencies' trains and buses in New York and New Jersey. PATH riders can switch to three NJ Transit bus lines and the Lexington Avenue subway lines, as well as eight MTA bus routes via MasterCard's PayPass card.

Goals include improving convenience and speed for transit riders and helping to ultimately determine whether such a system is feasible throughout each agency's transit system. Participating customers will not have to use cash or fare cards from multiple agencies and will not have to wait in line at ticket machines.

MasterCard PayPass will have an exclusive two-month window to test the system, which then also will be opened to other contactless bank card customers for the pilot's final four months.

Contactless cards already have proven popular on PATH, which offers its own, state-of-the-art SmartLink Card featuring an embedded computer chip that tracks the number of PATH trips available or travel days remaining for a customer. Sales of SmartLink Cards for travel on PATH has hit a record, jumping to more than 50-percent of market share on the rail line.

Under the pilot program with MasterCard, customers may select from pre-funding or pay-as-you-go options.

Last year alone, PATH handled nearly 73 million customers. The rail system, which the Port Authority acquired in 1962, is in the midst of a multi-billion dollar modernization that will result in an entirely new 340-car fleet of rail cars, a computerized signal system and upgraded train stations.

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