The Moving Date of a Cash Free LRT Comes to an End

The Moving Date of a Cash Free LRT Comes to an End

At the April board meeting of the Port Authority Board of Directors the Chief Executive Officer announced that the plan to make the trolley a cash free operation will not go forward.  That decision comes two years after the April 2016 meeting when the Board approved changes to the overall fare structure of Authority by eliminating zone 1 and zone 2 pricing based on distance traveled, pay on entering a vehicle, eliminating free bus rides Downtown, and moving to a cash free trolley by July 1, 2017.

A May 2016 estimate of the changes to the fare policy was $7.5 million, the bulk of that cost estimated on the change to the zone structure ($4.7 million).  A combination of technological issues (software upgrade estimated at $1.3 million) and pushback on police enforcement (the enforcement plan was unveiled last May) moved the date of implementation from July 1 to August 1 to sometime last fall.  Based on news coverage of last week’s meeting the cost of “installing the equipment in those stations would cost at least $60,000 each.”  From the 2016 estimate “additional ticket vending machines” had a total cost of $518k, which, if that estimate held and the items match up perfectly, meant eight machines.

And though the Authority is not going to use police to validate payments there will still be “18 fare checkers” (it is unclear if these are new hires or existing employees–hiring an additional five police officers was estimated at $389k, but news coverage says that 10 were hired for the enforcement plan) who will presumably use the handheld validators ($31k in the estimate) or do visual checks like the enforcement plan noted police would do.

It is not clear how someone paying cash will be validated unless the fare checker is present when the cash is paid since, as of now, riders don’t get a receipt.  And there is still the issue of the Downtown and North Shore stations being part of a “free fare zone” that requires payment when riding outside of this zone.  The policy plan was estimated to spend $580k on marketing and communications–will there be additional money spent telling riders they will still be able to pay cash on the trolley?