OGDEN -- The Utah Transit Authority will soon unveil a new electronic payment card and with it take another step toward doing away with cash fares on all buses and trains.
On Oct. 14, the transit agency will introduce a new prepaid, reloadable electronic FAREPAY card, which will require riders to tap on an electronic reader before boarding a train or bus and tap off when transferring or exiting the system.
The approach is similar to what UTA pass holders do now.
UTA spokesman Remi Barron said the FAREPAY cards must be activated before they can be used and after paying an initial one-time $3 activation fee, riders can load any amount from $5 to $500 on the card.
UTA officials say that by 2020 they want to do away with all cash payments on the agency's three main modes of transit -- buses, TRAX and the FrontRunner commuter train.
Aside from being more cost-effective, UTA officials say a cashless system makes riding public transit more convenient because riders wouldn't need exact change or have to wait in line at ticket vending machines.
A cashless system would also allow the agency to track each rider, which they say helps gather ridership data and makes enforcement of fare violations easier.
"We'd just rather people not use cash," Barron said. "It slows things down and with something like FAREPAY, we can see where people are going, how far people are going and we can use that data to determine how to tailor our service to individual needs in the future."
The new FAREPAY cards can be purchased online at farepay.rideuta.com or at UTA customer service centers. Retail merchants like Walgreens, Walmart, 7-Eleven and Associated Food Stores will begin rolling out FAREPAY cards during the coming weeks.
Once a card is registered online, riders can check their balance, schedule automatic reloads, and ensure loss and theft protection, Barron said.
Until March 14, UTA will be offering a promotional fare when people ride with FAREPAY, which will allow passengers to save up to 20 percent off the cash fare price for regular and express buses and TRAX and FrontRunner trains.
Barron said the promotion is designed to push cash-paying riders to switch to FAREPAY and quickly become familiar with how it works.
FAREPAY cards cannot be used on paratransit or ski bus services, which aren't equipped with electronic card readers.
Contact reporter Mitch Shaw at 801-625-4233 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23.