The Utah Transit Authority announced Tuesday that its new prepaid, reloadable electronic FAREPAY cards will be available for purchase beginning Monday.
To encourage use, UTA will offer discounts of up to 20 percent off regular cash fares for the next five months to those who use the new cards. So through March 14, for example, card users will be charged only $2 for a one-way bus or TRAX trip that normally costs $2.50.
The agency also will celebrate the new cards by giving away some on Wednesday at select TRAX and FrontRunner stations, and will announce giveaway sites through the day via Facebook and Twitter.
The new cards will be available for purchase online at rideuta.com or at UTA customer service centers beginning Monday. UTA said retail merchants will begin rolling out FAREPAY cards during the following weeks and days. Retailers who have agreed to participate include Walgreens, Walmart, 7-Eleven and Associated Food Stores.
The cards have a one-time $3 activation fee and riders can load any amount from $5 to $500. Cards purchased at UTA Customer Service centers or retail merchants are activated at the register. Cards purchased by mail must be activated online before use.
Cards can be reloaded online or at service centers.
When riding a bus or FrontRunner train, those using FAREPAY cards must tap on electronic readers before boarding and tap off when transferring or exiting the system. When riding TRAX, riders only need to tap between the first and last stations, and do not need to tap when transferring between TRAX lines.
If riders forget to tap off after any service, they will not receive a transfer credit — and also will be charged for full-length-of-line trips on FrontRunner.
UTA said FAREPAY is designed to be more convenient because riders won’t have to carry cash, have exact change or wait in line at ticket vending machines. FAREPAY will also enable UTA to gather better ridership data and adjust service accordingly.
Riders who normally qualify for reduced cash fares, such as seniors, may contact the UTA customer service center for a FAREPAY card that honors the reduced fare discount.
UTA has also been working for the past few years toward a distance-based fare system that would charge fares based on length of trips instead of the current flat rate for trips of any length. It has said a major obstacle to that has been creating an electronic fare system for everyone to allow collecting such sliding fares — which would also do away with collecting cash onboard.
Andrea Packer, UTA communications director, has said about 25 percent of UTA riders now pay in cash and could benefit from the new FAREPAY cards. About 50 percent of all riders currently use types of passes from universities or employers that already require them to “tap on” and “tap off.”