In May, we told you about DART's new, near-field communication fare system. The system, which has the potential to solve a few of DART's longstanding problems, is set to debut sometime in early 2017, but the equipment that it's going to use is already being placed on buses. The NFC fare readers can also be spotted, covered by bags promising that "a better commute is coming" at Union Station downtown.
When they're turned on, the readers will allow DART riders with reloadable cards (will be on sale at 7-Eleven and other retailers) to put cash on their DART card and then tap it on one of the readers to pay their fare.
The system has the potential to fix a couple of the flaws in DART's current payment system. First, as DART CFO David Leininger said in May, DART riders would be able to effectively pay for monthly passes a little at a time. Once a rider put $80 on his or her card in a given 31-day period, the amount of monthly pass, he or she would get to ride the rest of the month for free.
What is perhaps an even bigger deal is that incorporating NFC could change the way people ride DART's light rail system. Right now, the only enforcement mechanism DART has for its trains are the fare enforcement officers who infrequently board light rail cars and visually inspect passengers' tickets.
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DART hasn't revealed the mechanics of how the cards would work on trains, but the readers popping up at Union Station are a signal that the agency may be moving beyond hand checking, allowing for more efficient, and frequent, fare collection.