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July 21, 2011

PAT vehicles to scan Pitt “smart card” IDs as of Aug. 1

71A negley tennysonBeginning Aug. 1., Pitt ID holders will have to tap their identification cards on Port Authority vehicle fareboxes to waive the fare.

The new system replaces the current process, where Port Authority drivers push a “Pitt button” as riders flash their ID cards.

In recent months, the Port Authority has installed fareboxes equipped with new “smart-card” technology on all its vehicles, including the T (light rail transit) and the Monongahela Incline. The orange scanners are mounted atop the farebox.

Scanning a Pitt ID card will yield one of four results:

• If the card is accepted as valid, the rider will hear a single beep and see a “Uni PITT Pass THANK YOU” message displayed on a screen, indicating the ID card has been accepted.

• The rider will hear a triple beep and receive the message: “Transaction Not OK.” Riders should try to tap the scanner again slowly to receive the thank you message; it may be that the tapping was too swift for the scanner.

• If the card already has been used on that vehicle by another passenger, a violation of the “pass-back” policy, the rider will hear a triple beep, followed by the message: “Improper Usage-Card Recently Used.” Riders who receive that message will be required to pay the full fare or exit the vehicle.

• Riders who hear a triple beep followed by the message: “Card Not Valid” will be required to pay the full fare or exit the vehicle. When this occurs, Pitt ID holders are asked to contact Panther Central at 412/648-1100; email at, or stop at Panther Central in the Litchfield Towers lobby. Panther Central also has an online inquiry form at

The fareboxes will continue to accept exact-change cash fares.

The University began issuing ID cards with the smart-card technology embedded in them in 2009, in anticipation of the Port Authority’s launch of the new system.

The system is expected to yield a more accurate count of Pitt riders than the current system of manually recording rides. It also aims to weed out invalid and expired ID cards, Pitt and Port Authority officials said.

The technology was tested in a month-long pilot program for Pitt ID holders that concluded in June. A total of 230 ID holders — 210 faculty/staff and 20 students — participated, according to John Fedele, Pitt director of news. “The pilot proved to be a success,” he said.

The transit company expects to implement the system for the general public by March 2012, Port Authority officials said.

—Peter Hart

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