There will soon be a new electronic payment system for people who ride TARC buses.

Nearly a decade ago, TARC was awarded millions of dollars in federal, state and local funding to install a new electronic fare system.

“We ran into technical difficulties, and this is actually our second go-round on it,” TARC Executive Director Barry Barker said.

The new system was supposed to launch after two or three years until TARC ran into problems with a vendor contracted to do the work.

“It was a mess,” long-time TARC passenger Josh Burkhart said. “I hope it happens sooner than later."

The smart cards will finally launch in 2018.

“It will function much like a debit card or credit card,” Barker said.

Burkhart has been riding with TARC for 17 years, which is more recent than the last time the system was updated, which came about 25 years ago.

He said the new MyTARC smart cards are taking passengers like him down a more convenient road, and they'll save time for the drivers working to keep the bus on schedule.

“Instead of having to carry jingle jangle change, you just tap the card, and you go on with your day,” he said.

MyTARC cards cost $5, but that money will go straight on the card to be used for fares. The cards can hold up to a $50 balance.

“It’s a much faster way of paying the fare instead of scrounging around for the money although we will still take cash,” Barker said.

Passengers can buy one the same way they bought tickets: on the TARC website, at the Union Station headquarters or at the NIA Center.

“We're in the process of lining up more locations where they can get the card,” Barker said.

You can't buy a card on the bus, but you can add more money to the card on the bus.

“It gives you some information saying, 'Hey, this is how much you have left,’” Burkhart said.

The buses will still accept exact change, and all the prices still remain the same.

The card provides free transfers within two hours after the initial boarding. If a passenger pays with cash on the bus, transfers will not be available because drivers will no longer provide paper transfer slips.

In addition to smart cards, TARC plans to start using a smart phone app for passengers to buy tickets or use a pass directly on the phone. The customers will be able to scan the mobile ticket on the fare box, similar to "tapping" a smart card.

TARC is still looking for input on the system from customers. There are feedback and Q&A sessions scheduled. Click here to view the schedule. 

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