Light rail loses $235,000 to bad equipment - East Valley Tribune: News

Light rail loses $235,000 to bad equipment

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Posted: Wednesday, March 25, 2009 5:08 pm | Updated: 12:55 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Metro light rail lost about $235,000 in revenue last month, mostly due to problems with fare-card readers, the agency said Wednesday.

According to officials, the 908,000 passenger boardings in February, combined with Metro's goal of 84 cents per rider, should have produced revenues of nearly $763,000.

However, revenue totaled $528,000, or, about 58 cents per boarding.

Metro chief executive officer Rick Simonetta informed the agency's board of directors of the shortfall while speaking about fare evaders.

Later, Metro's director of finance and administration, John McCormack, blamed the problem on technology provided by a German company, plus the passengers who use "smart cards" to pay their fares.

Metro has estimated problems with the cards and readers are responsible for $200,000 of the shortfall, McCormack said.

The contractor, Scheidt and Bachmann, did not return an e-mail seeking comment.

The 20-mile cross-Valley line opened in December and began charging passengers on Jan. 1.

Many riders are using the Platinum Pass Program, in which Metro and employers work together to encourage employees to commute via light rail; Arizona State University offers the program through the U-Pass. At stations, cardholders are allowed to board after swiping their cards against a reader, provided to Metro by Scheidt and Bachmann.

But, as McCormack explained, in January some readers were rejecting paid-for cards, although that problem has been fixed. Also, the readers' screens gave riders a visual cue too soon before an audio tone, prompting people to pull away their cards before the transaction was complete.

"We've missed legitimate fares from that," McCormack said.

Finally, some riders are unaware of the need to even sweep their cards past the readers.

Metro spokeswoman Hillary Foose said the agency soon will be starting an education campaign aimed at getting riders to correctly use their cards.

Other problems with the contractor's equipment include ticket vending machines whose screens are difficult to read in the sun's glare, and metal buttons that grow uncomfortably warm in the heat. McCormack said Metro is working with Scheidt and Bachmann to correct these issues.

Scheidt and Bachmann also provides fare boxes on Valley Metro buses and parking pass validation at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, McCormack said.

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