LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Transit Authority of River City’s plan to install electronic card readers on its buses is being pushed back until next year as a result of software and other glitches.

TARC officials announced last fall that the $5 million project – letting riders use a pre-paid card while boarding – would be in place by this summer. But the system now won’t be operational until next spring, executive director Barry Barker said in an interview.

Barker said the delay is the result of several issues, including ensuring that the card readers and software interact properly and unresolved concerns about whether some employee identification cards will be able to double as TARC smart cards.

“Perhaps we were more ambitious about how quickly we could get everything in line,” Barker said. In acknowledging that the system is taking longer to install, he said: “We’re making the decision to do it right, rather than do it early.”

The setback is the latest in a years-long odyssey to improve TARC’s fare collection process.

In fall 2010, TARC received a $2.5 million grant to fund an electronic system scheduled to be in place by 2012. Barker said TARC officials incorrectly believed that grant would be “sufficient to do what we wanted to do.”

Barker defended the most recent delay, saying that TARC is committed to installing a system that takes advantage of technological advances. He said the overall cost hasn’t increased.

“What we’re trying to do is put a system in place that’s not considered obsolete in three years,” he said.

TARC still hasn’t determined whether employers such as Jefferson County Public Schools, Humana and Metro government involved in a discount program will need separate cards, or if current IDs will be compatible with the electronic system.

A decision is expected by the fall, Barker said.

Cash will still be accepted once the new card readers are added to all city buses. There won’t be fare increases directly related to the new system, Barker said, and riders using the cards with pre-paid value will receive a slight discount -- $1.50 per ride, compared with $1.75 for cash customers.

TARC plans to sell the “tap cards,” which will be read when scanned by a card reader, for $5 each. The cards will include $5 in pre-paid rides, Barker said.

The agency ultimately hopes to “minimize cash” on buses, but there are no plans to eliminate cash altogether, Barker said.

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