Tap on/off system to start January 1st

By Isabella Bravo, Staff Writer

UTA will ring in the new year by tracking commuters with the recently installed tap pads on buses and at TRAX and FrontRunner stations.

The “tap on, tap off” devices will activate on Jan. 1 and start tracking Utah Transit Authority cardholders’ commutes. This new system will allow UTA to evaluate where students are riding and for how long so they can make routes and services more efficient. Students who don’t use the electronic fare collection system correctly will risk deactivated transit passes.

UTA might fine monthly pass cardholders the price of one pass, $74.50, for not tapping on. If students fail to tap off three times in a row or three times in two weeks, the U and UTA will deactivate their pass. The front desk in the Union, Commuter Services, the University Campus Store or the UCard office can reactivate UTA passes afterward.

Carrie Bohnsack-Ware, a UTA spokeswoman, said the fines and sanctions exist so cardholders use the tap system correctly.

“We really want people to tap on and off, so we can track students’ commutes. This allows UTA to better evaluate routes and improve service,” she said. “I think it’s important that students understand that we are not tracking them personally. We only know a person with a valid ed pass is using the system. We have no idea who that individual is and have no personal information what so ever.”

With each tap of an Ed-Pass, the scanner sends the route information to UTA and to the U.

“It also allows UTA to provide valuable reports on travel patterns to the university that can be used to plan for the future,” Bohnsack-Ware said.

The new system will also allow TRAX riders to pay for adult fares with credit and debit cards that have contactless microchips installed, such as American Express expresspay, Discover Network Zip, MasterCard PayPass and Visa payWave.

Alex Ecton, a freshman in electrical engineering, travels 60 miles by bus every weekday. Ecton said the new tap on, tap off system sounds easy.

Ruthann Shurtleff, a junior in geology, however, has doubts.

Shurtleff, a skier, is familiar with entrance tap pads, which are common at ski resorts throughout Utah’s canyons. She said she does not see the tap off going well.

“There are too many people trying to get off and not enough time,” Shurtleff said. She said she also suspects people who are in a hurry to make the train will not have the time to stop and tap on. “I’m a bicycle commuter. With struggling to get on train with my bike there is no way I’m going to have enough time to tap on too,” she said.

Bohnsack-Ware said UTA police will be lenient for a few weeks, while cardholders become familiar with the new system.

Lennie Mahler

Students will have to begin tapping their UTA student Ed-Pass on the new Tap On/Tap Off kiosks on Jan. 1, 2009. Students who fail to use the new system will be fined or have their card deactivated.