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Port Authority ConnectCard is now available (free) without a pass

This topic contains 60 replies, has 20 voices, and was last updated by  JaySherman5000 1 mo, 1 week.

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salty

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Apr 28 2013 at 9:31pm #

I didn’t see any announcement about this, but when I went into Giant Eagle to buy some more bus tickets, I was told they didn’t have any – but I could get a ConnectCard smart card. They’ve been out for a while but last I heard you had to buy a pass to get one – not anymore. You can put from $0.50 to $200.00 on it and if you register it with PAT (which unfortunately takes a phone call at the moment) you can get the balance back if you lose it.

I don’t ride the bus a whole lot but it’s definitely nice to have the option (in case of breakdown, intoxication, hot weather, laziness, etc) without having to worry about having cash/change.


byogman

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Apr 28 2013 at 9:59pm #

So, to be clear, the dollar value you put on it doesn’t expire? I’m also an infrequent rider (mechanical difficulties mainly) so it would take an indeterminate number months to go through even a very nominal amount. But I don’t always have cash (at least, not exact change), so it sounds like a nice insurance policy.


pbeaves

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Apr 28 2013 at 10:06pm #

correct. it is a non-expiring rechargeable card.
so you can load a few bucks on it and carry it for emergencies.
the amount placed on the card stays until used.
you can recharge @ giant eagles, the port authority station on smithfield, or the self service machines in the subway stations.
the rechargers take plastic or cash.

i’ve been using one since december, its actually really nice.
the registration option is really cool too.


salty

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Apr 28 2013 at 10:36pm #

There was something in the brochure saying it becomes inactive after a year of no use, and then you have to call to reactivate it or get a refund. That seems like a bit of a PITA, although at least you don’t lose the money.


scott

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Apr 28 2013 at 11:44pm #

I’m going to get one of these this week. Thanks for the heads up, Salty.


myddrin

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Apr 29 2013 at 8:05am #

That is awesome! I’ve been waiting for this, I’d love to have a card with a small amount on it in case of emergency. ( Either a mid-ride break down or the “too tired/late to bike home” moments.)

Tonight is grocery night, so I’ll have to pick one up.


edmonds59

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Apr 29 2013 at 8:20am #

It doesn’t look like you can add value to the card online. I’ve been using tickets because I buy them through work and they get mailed to the office. I would much rather convert to the card, but if I have to physically visit an office or machine to load value, this will make it impossible to load with a business card. It says that will happen eventually, but for now that is a drawback.


rsprake

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Apr 29 2013 at 8:55am #

I was just lamenting the fact that this wasn’t available yet. Great news.


Mr. Destructicity

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Apr 29 2013 at 9:33am #

I’ll add, as someone who’s been forced to used the card since December, that the number of ATM networks supported is quite limited. I had to run my card as credit instead of debit. And my experience adding money to the card at T stations has been pretty iffy at best. About 50% of the time they don’t seem to work.

I miss the tickets already, too. Mostly because of the ridiculous surcharge for peak T hours.

They do have a pilot program for online recharging but it’s limited to a small number of routes.


Steven

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Apr 29 2013 at 10:42am #

FWIW, I’ve added money to my ConnectCard pass with balance 3 or 4 times using a credit card, and it’s gone through fine. (Only problem was with the printed receipts. They tend to get stuck, and you may get the receipt of whoever used the machine just before you. That happened to me once. They say they’re working on it.)


StuInMcCandless

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Apr 29 2013 at 12:50pm #

I was Person #1 to purchase a ConnectCard back in Feb 2012, putting an annual pass on it. I’ve since renewed the annual.

I also lost my wallet last October, and getting a replacement CC was quite simple, though I had to go to the Smithfield St Service Center to do it.

Yes, this is non-expiring fare. My son has one, too, and uses it sporadically. An ideal situation for sticking $20 or so on it and just keeping it around for the reasons salty mentioned in the OP.

Also, you can already purchase weekly and monthly passes and have them encoded on the card.

One tip: If you plan to make a transfer, you have to tell the driver on both legs of the trip, or else you get charged full fare for both trips.

@edmonds59: The last set of people they are going to convert to the card is those who buy their fare through their employer. Kinda sucks, IMHO; seems those would be the easy people to convert.


pinky

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Apr 29 2013 at 1:57pm #

Love it.

Though be forewarned, you have to wait for the little light on the farebox to turn green before you put your card down (flat against the box, not on the corner like the video shows).

If you do what I did the first time, and jump the gun, it will get angry and have to reset. And those extra 2.5 seconds piss off everyone around you.


salty

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Jun 3 2013 at 11:45pm #

So, this has definitely increased the number of bus trips I’ve taken – I’m down to $15 or so from my initial $50, in a little over a month. Part of that is because my wife has been riding the bus more as well, we’ve been taking the bus and/or walking pretty much everywhere lately.

I did run into an unanticipated situation the other night, taking the 67/69 outbound at night (so it’s pay when you get on), I got charged $3.75 for a 2-zone fare even though I was staying in zone 1. I noticed it right after I swiped the card – I’m not sure if getting a refund was an option but the bus was already late so I didn’t want to get into a big thing with the driver. I guess you have to tell the driver if you’re only going one zone in that situation and they can adjust the fare. It would be nice if that could happen without any driver intervention, although I’m not sure exactly how it could work unless you had to swipe when getting on and off, which would be worse.

Also, I was disappointed that when I went to the kiosks by the Negley Ave busway station, they were not operational – the screens weren’t on at all and no amount of swiping/button pushing woke them up. Do they shut off at some point (seems nonsensical, it was around 10pm) or were they just broken?


Steven

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Jun 4 2013 at 2:13am #

I’d guess that kiosk just isn’t fully hooked up yet. They were still working on the one at Lytle station too a few weeks ago. Maybe others.

You can call them up and get a refund for the incorrect fare charged.

Some T stations will get “validators” (those gadgets that resemble fancy parking meters), which let you swipe your card before you board without standing in line at a booth. They appear to have a switch so you can tell it how many zones you’re riding.


Benzo

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Jun 4 2013 at 8:36am #

This card thing is awesome, it was way more convenient than dealing with a monthly pass, tickets, or cash. I just tap my wallet on the reader and keep walking. It still needs a way to load value online, but that’s about it. No real complaints otherwise.

Haven’t tried this with the T or transfers yet, but it’s nice to always have it in my wallet in case of a flat or too many beers.

Combine this with bus arrival information via GPS and I feel like we’re actually moving in to the 21st century.


pbeaves

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Jun 4 2013 at 9:17am #

I like having one of these cards, Its a good thing to have for an emergency (like a random flat or rain.)
Its nice that you dont have to carry a random allotment of cash / stop at a store to break a larger bill.

When using one for a transfer, you need to inform the bus driver before you tap the card, then they are supposed to charge you for the trip & transfer at the same time, so you avoid paying a second full fare.


joeframbach

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Jun 4 2013 at 9:23am #

I was charged 3.75 for a zone 1 trip in January. I tweeted “@PGHtransit I think the 3218 p1 outbound at 7:13pm just charged my connect card $3.75. I thought it should be $2.50. Can we sort this out?” We got in touch, they called me, and I got my refund.


Benzo

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Jun 4 2013 at 10:30am #

pbeaves wrote:When using one for a transfer, you need to inform the bus driver before you tap the card, then they are supposed to charge you for the trip & transfer at the same time, so you avoid paying a second full fare.

Do you still get a paper transfer ticket?


salty

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Jun 4 2013 at 6:40pm #

Yes, you still get a paper transfer slip, although they’re supposed to eventually automate it.

Having a button to select 1 or 2 zones would be great.


StuInMcCandless

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Jun 4 2013 at 10:32pm #

Sometime in the not-distant but not-near future, they’re supposed to publish a new fare policy. I still don’t know what it is, but the earliest we might see it is January, maybe July of next year. They’ve changed the fares and zones any number of times, but structurally it’s pretty much the same thing it was 25 years ago.

Myself, I dropped the big wad and got an annual pass. The nicest thing about that is never having to think about what it costs to ride the system. I have my card; I ride. I ride it four times a day, or I go four days without a ride, no difference.

It’s a state of mind. I just wish I could get 50,000 more people to think like me.


Mikhail

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Jun 5 2013 at 3:43pm #

StuInMcCandless wrote:It’s a state of mind. I just wish I could get 50,000 more people to think like me.

I tried to use T outbound on May 17th (bike to work day) after FLOC ride. It was 22:05 when blue line came and driver claimed that it carries too many people even I boarded and put bike along drivers cabin in the second car. So his proposal was to wait for another train. With this level of services I don’t think I am going to use PAT service too often. If I would use it at all.

PS Three years ago my daughter and I were using T and buses to get from zone 2 to downtown (me) and another zone 2 (my daughter). And then they cut 56C and PAT lost 2 riders right away. Since we were going with monthly passes and parking at SHVG around $2,600 then and about $3,600 now.


StuInMcCandless

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Jun 6 2013 at 5:32am #

Ignorant drivers do not help matters.


Benzo

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Jul 21 2014 at 10:18am #

This weekend I had a connect card and attempted to use it to get home from the library T stop as I had just rode the montour trail and wanted to get back downtown.

Unfortunately, the connect card I had was marked as inactive. It just told me the card was inactive and wouldn’t let me proceed with any actions. The machine told me that the last time it was used was in January 2014, so it’s unlikely that it should have been deactivated due to being unused for a year.

The ticket machine would not let me add money with a credit card. and the people on the port authority help line couldn’t do anything nor could they tell me why my card was no longer active. Their solution was that I was supposed to go downtown to the service center, which opens after I get to work and closes before I leave work everyday and is not open on the weekend at all. I was frustrated and didn’t have cash.

This is not convenient. I’m not going to buy another connectcard until they get a help line that can actually do something like activate a card or a website that allows me to manage my card balance online and could do something like notify me when my card is being deactivated so that I could actually be prepared to deal with this ahead of time instead of having to deal with it at the time I’m trying to board a bus or train.

I do have my card registered for balance protection, so at least I might be able to recover the balance if I ever make it downtown during their limited business hours.


J Z

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Jul 21 2014 at 12:26pm #

Sorry this happened. I just checked the back of my card and it says, “This card will become invalid if inactive for 1 year”. That said, it’s a stupid policy. I have value loaded on a card in an event I have a way to get to work in the event of an emergency mechanical or similar. If that’s true, I just burned $25 if there isn’t a protocol to use to ensure that it stays active, even if I don’t use it. I put in an inquiry with Port Authority to see if there was a way to keep it active and will report back once I find out something.


Benzo

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Jul 21 2014 at 1:33pm #

The fare card machine indicated that my card was used january of this year (I don’t remember whether this is the truth or not, I don’t ride the bus often). If the machine was right, then there is no reason it should have been deactivated.


Benzo

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Jul 21 2014 at 1:34pm #

Or maybe it means that if I didn’t put money on it in the last year it gets deactivated. Because then it’s a problem, because I just dumped $50 at a time on to it to cover travel expenses when I had a broken hand. I just kept whittling down the balance slowly after I recovered and started riding daily again.


StuInMcCandless

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Jul 21 2014 at 9:09pm #

Keep ‘em coming, folks. I pass them along to PAT staff at ACTC meetings, and it keeps me informed as to what others run into. I ride much less than I used to, but rarely go a week without at least one ride, so I don’t see this sort of problem.

On some of the other things mentioned in earlier posts, the electronic transfer is likely going to be the next thing implemented, probably by year’s end. (Why this is taking sooooo long to roll out, I don’t know. They started the process in 2009 by getting the Pitt and CMU ID cards converted, but even then it wasn’t until mid-2011 they actually used them.)


Benzo

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Jul 22 2014 at 7:57am #

Thanks stu. I’m glad my internet ranting might actually be more than just blowing off steam…


Pierce

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Jul 22 2014 at 3:13pm #

Man, that does blow. I don’t remember when I bought my card, but I haven’t used it since. Not sure if it was before or after January. I’ll be in the same situation since I don’t use my card at all essentially, just have it as a backup. This crap of having to go downtown is also annoying. Not everybody in the county feels like going downtown to get a piece of plastic.


Steven

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Jul 23 2014 at 12:56am #

You don’t have to go downtown just to get a ConnectCard. They’re available at Giant Eagles and some other stores. And PAT can fix some ConnectCard problems over the phone (if you get overcharged, for instance), but seemingly not a card that’s been deactivated for no apparent reason.

Benzo, it sounds as if the rep you spoke to was planning to treat your card problem like a lost or stolen card, and figured the downtown service center would just give you a replacement. It’s possible a different rep would know how to reactivate your existing card over the phone, especially if you originally called PAT over the weekend. I think their ConnectCard-specific customer service reps only work weekdays.

Pierce, you might consider checking your card from time to time at one of their ConnectCard machines, located at many T and busway stations. Eventually their web site will let you do that too, and even tell you when you last used or refilled it.


jeg

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Jul 23 2014 at 7:18am #

I just called Port Authority about re-activating my ConnectCard (which I haven’t used since I left Pittsburgh in May of 2013) for my upcoming visit, and the person on the phone claimed that all I need to do is add money at one of the machines or a store, and it will automatically re-activate and add the new amount to what was left on the card.

I will try this in a week at the airport and see how it goes.


Benzo

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Jul 23 2014 at 7:45am #

I was not able to add value at the machine :(


jeg

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Jul 23 2014 at 10:45am #

Yes, after reading this thread I called to make sure, and am still dubious. Either the people on the phone don’t have the whole story, or something else happened to your card (maybe the magnetic sensor or whatever they use got damaged?).

Luckily I will probably have a ride from the airport!


J Z

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Jul 23 2014 at 1:19pm #

I haven’t heard back from Port Authority, yet, but from what @jeg is saying, I have to add value to “re-activate” a card that hasn’t been used for a year? If so, that’s lame.


StuInMcCandless

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Jul 23 2014 at 1:54pm #

I think I have a farecard that hasn’t been used in six months (my wife’s). I will borrow it and try a few things. I need for it to be working, if only for my own peace of mind. It normally sits for months at a time, but is expected to work with zero notice.

If this is the way they’re supposed to work, that’s a problem.


edmonds59

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Jul 23 2014 at 5:50pm #

It sounds to me like Port Authority’s fare card system is about as functional (or dys- as the case may be) as ATM cards from 1983.


salty

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Jul 23 2014 at 8:00pm #

I think it’s pretty common for dormant cards to expire, not just here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/17/nyregion/unspent-metrocard-money-means-millions-for-mta.html?_r=0

Per my earlier post, the brochure with the card said something about one year, but I can’t find anything like that on connectcard.org. This Giant Eagle page claims “The stored (cash) value will be deducted from your ConnectCard only when you ride and does not expire like passes do.”


Steven

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Jul 23 2014 at 9:47pm #

Right, no transit organization wants a liability on their books that perpetually increases with no limit. And if you look at it as a dormant-account maintenance fee, paying (say) $5 a year with a full $5 credit toward fare to keep an account active is pretty cheap as such things go.

But if the card says one year, it needs to be one year, not six months (and two or three years would be better, and still address the unbounded-liability problem well enough, I’d think).

PAT should be communicating the details in more places than the back of a card. Expiration rules should be on their web site. Once the online ConnectCard site goes live, it should send an email reminder. And if you swipe your cash-balance card (at a fare box, ConnectCard machine, Giant Eagle, or other places that refill cards) it should show the expiration date. (In fact, it would be nice if just checking your balance was enough to show the card was still active, and give you another year or two.)


Pierce

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Jul 24 2014 at 12:28pm #

FWIW, the back of the card has wording which makes it sound like generic placeholder text:

“This card will become invalid if inactive for one (1) year. Please consult your participating regional transit authority regarding its replacement or reactivation policy.”

There’s not even a number on the card to call


J Z

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Jul 24 2014 at 2:16pm #

@steven “And if you swipe your cash-balance card (at a fare box, ConnectCard machine, Giant Eagle, or other places that refill cards) it should show the expiration date. (In fact, it would be nice if just checking your balance was enough to show the card was still active, and give you another year or two.) ”

^this. I checked my card at the Smithfield service center and I can see the balance on there, but have no idea if it’s “inactive” or what. It would be a less than optimal outcome to one day need it like @benzo and then find out it was no good.

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