photo courtesy

photo courtesy

Post by Afton Guedea, Advocate intern and Lakehill Preparatory senior.

Paying for the DART just got easier. Or rather, it will come March.

The city’s public transit system just announced a partnership with PayNearMe, allowing 250,000 DART customers to load their transit accounts at hundreds of local retail stores, avoiding any hassle of carrying the exact bus fare with them. The change is an effort to reduce and possibly eliminate cash handling by bus drivers in order to reduce distraction and improve both safety and operational efficiency.

“Today, more than 80 percent of the fare value collected on the bus or through our ticket vending machines is paid in cash,” says David Leininger, DART’s executive vice president and chief financial officer.

The DART GoPass card will be the company’s first reloadable NFC-enabled transit card. Additionally, DART’s GoPass mobile app will allow riders to present the app on their smartphones to a store clerk at nearly 800 stores within PayNearMe’s retail network and pay in cash to load their DART fare.

GoPass’s near field communications (the system that allows tech to talk to each other when in close proximity) technology on bus and rail automatically deducts the correct fare amounts when the card is held up to readers. The user can also register each card, making it easy to restore balances if the card is lost or gets stolen.

The new cash loading option and GoPass cards will be available beginning in March 2017 at retail locations including participating 7-Eleven and Fidelity Express stores. But before that happens, DART needs to overhaul its system to prepare for the new tech.

“DART is upgrading their back office software to move from a ticket-based system (one time use) to an account-based system (many time use), which will support transit card loads at retail stores and onto physical cards,” says Amber Moore, spokeswoman for PayNearMe. “Card reader hardware also need to be implemented onto transit vehicles to enable the launch of GoPass cards. These updates are beginning now.”

They are getting the word out early to get riders used to the idea of a new way to pay their fare.