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Pa. Port Authority Unveils Mobile Payment App for Bus Riders

The Port Authority of Allegheny County, which is stationed in Pittsburgh, Pa., is gearing up to launch a mobile payment app for bus riders. A similar app for light rail riders will come in early 2022.

Bus rider using smartphone
Shutterstock/LDprod
(TNS) — Port Authority is on the verge of rolling out its smartphone payment system for bus riders, but it probably won't be available for light rail users until early next year.

That's because the Federal Transit Administration has different fire safety requirements for vehicles that operate underground, and contractor Masabi LLC has had to change the design on the recording device known as a validator for light rail cars. That work is continuing, and the devices might not be manufactured and installed before January.

As a result, the agency will have a "soft launch" of the mobile payment app known as Ready2Ride "very, very soon," authority spokesman Adam Brandolph said. The app will be available, but the authority won't do any heavy promotion because it doesn't want to confuse customers who transfer from bus to light rail and wouldn't be able to use the app both places.

"Right now, it's only going to be a soft launch," Mr. Brandolph said. "The most important aspect is it's only going to be for buses initially."

Since April, the authority has had about 100 riders testing the mobile app known as Ready2Ride. About 400 had volunteered to try it, but with lower ridership during the pandemic, fewer than 100 used it regularly.

There were a few minor hiccups along the way, Mr. Brandolph said, but they have been worked out.

As part of the pilot, the authority conducted a federally mandated Title VI analysis of the mobile app to determine whether it would be discriminatory because introducing it would exclude any group from using the system. Ellie Newman, section manager for service development, told the authority board's technology committee last week that it wouldn't be discriminatory because there would be less than a 20% difference among all groups as far as access to a smartphone.

When mobile payment becomes available, Ready2Ride will be available for free on any Apple or Android smartphone. Riders also will be able to use the mobile app called Transit.

Regardless, Ms. Newman said, the agency is developing additional ways for customers to obtain fare products, including individual tickets. That is expected to include a series of retail outlets that will be able to use a laptop computer to print tickets instead of requiring an expensive ticketing vending machine.

An analysis found seven communities that have access to public transit but don't have fare products available within a half mile: McKees Rocks, McKeesport, Wilkinsburg, Braddock and the Pittsburgh neighborhoods of Spring Hill, Hill District and Lincoln-Lemington. The agency has found locations in the Hill District and McKeesport but is continuing to look for locations in the other communities.

The agency also has identified a series of retail outlets that will provide transit products, but they haven't signed contracts yet, Mr. Brandolph said. The agency also is considering making products available in public offices and buildings.

The technology committee recommended that the full board accept the Title VI analysis when it meets Friday.

©2021 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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