Mar 28, 2016 - News

Smart cards are coming to Charlotte transit

Charlotte CATS bus

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It’s a hallmark of metropolitan transportation — reloadable “smart cards” you can use to get around.

New York, Chicago, San Francisco — you name it. They have them.

The Charlotte Area Transit System, on the other hand, has a super inconvenient system. You have to have exact change to get on the city bus, and it’s $2.20 (who has that?). Plus the fare box doesn’t work half the time.

I always find myself scrambling to buy a light rail ticket before the train comes. The Blue Line is also mostly on an honor system and you have to buy a new ticket pretty much every time you ride.

Photo by Payton Chung via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Photo by Payton Chung via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Charlotte is finally catching up. CATS is now about to bring smart cards to town.

The city is set to approve a $7.7 million contract Monday that would implement a smart card system to replace the current fare box process created in 1998.

Charlotte Transit Center

CATS has been having all sorts of problems with keeping track of how many people are riding the bus and this would help.

Everything is going to be phased in over time.

The new system will be mobile enabled and pretty sweet.

You’ll be able to wave a fare card over the box and have your ticket price deducted. You’ll also be able to have the smart card live only on your phone, and reload it through your device.

Image via CATS

What about the light rail?

Yes, the Blue Line will ultimately be on this system. Once the extension to University City opens up, the smart card technology will be in operation on the light rail.

At some point, you’d have to tap a pass to get on the train. That might not be in effect at first, though. Regardless, “fare inspectors would have a device that could read the contactless card to determine if it was a valid pass,” CATS spokeswoman Krystal Greene said.

Image via CATS

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