Starting on January 7th, TARC is finally implementing its new smart card-based fare system, called “MyTARC Smart Card”.
MyTARC is a card where you can load a certain amount of cash onto the card and pay for your bus fare via a swipe or tap on the new fare boxes. Bus fare is not increasing; it is still $1.75 per trip, $2.75 for Express routes. The amount of the trip is deducted from your card, per swipe or tap.
With MyTARC, there are a few new options that you can use for fare. There is a new 7-day pass ($15), 7-day Express pass ($23), and a 24-hour Express pass ($5.50). Monthly passes ($50) are still available – and my fare of choice – but I’m not sure how they will work with the new MyTARC.
You can register your card on TARC’s website; this will protect your card balance, in case your card is lost, stolen, or damaged.
Cash fare is still accepted but the “exact change” part is going to be enforced, according to a couple of drivers. So, if you get on the bus with a $5 bill, you are SOL.
Transfers have changed. Cash fare payers will not get a paper transfer any more. The transfers will become part of the MyTARC system: from the moment of your first swipe/tap, you have a 2-hour window where additional swipes/taps won’t be deducted from your MyTARC card. After that, you have to pay again and the 2 hours will begin again.
TARC’s web site also got a complete overhaul.
The new site has a lot more functionality to it, including an improved ‘Trip Planner’ feature. It looks pretty neat. Unfortunately, it is also much more difficult to find info on. For example, you can find, pretty easily, real-time info on the next bus coming at your location, but you cannot find times for future buses without using Trip Planner (an entire route’s schedule was available under a link). My advice is to go on the site, play around with it for a while, and see what you can and can’t do.
I will pick up my MyTARC card on Monday or Tuesday. There will probably be a few bugs to work out on the first days but hopefully this system works out, and stays, for a long time.