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Amtran to re-establish fares

Customers haven’t been charged during pandemic

mtran is making plans to transition from its corona­virus-induced policy of not charging customers to the eventual return of full fares.

The bus service hasn’t been charging customers to ride during the pandemic so those customers can enter and leave buses through the back door and avoid coming close to drivers — a procedure that makes it impossible to collect money.

Amtran has designed and ordered hinged Plexiglas shields that will allow customers to begin entering by the front and thus begin making payments, according to General Manager Eric Wolf.

To ease customers out of the habit of riding for free, the organization may begin the transition with a discount, perhaps half the normal price, he said.

The current list price for a monthly pass is $49, according to the Amtran website.

One advantage of charging again, as the state’s societal restrictions relax, is deterrence of overcrowding, which remains dangerous because of the coronavirus, Wolf said.

“Normally (crowded buses) would be awesome,” but not now, he said.

The organization is working with Avail Technologies of State College to develop a means by which riders can use their smartphones for mobile ticketing, although that technology won’t be available before fares come back into play, Wolf said.

Avail has “worked out the bugs” on the system with other transit agencies, Wolf told the board at a recent meeting.

Smartphones can be loaded with bank card information and used like credit cards when boarding, he said.

Currently — if not for the coronavirus — riders would be loading fare money onto their Amtran smart cards, either by using cash or credit cards at the Amtran office or by depositing cash in the fare boxes on the buses, according to Wolf.

When mobile ticketing becomes available, many of the cash transactions would be eliminated, making it safer for employees, as cash is “dirty,” Wolf said.

“Mobile ticketing seems the way,” Wolf said.

The organization has never created an option for customers to use credit cards on the buses to load money onto their smart cards, because that would have created security problems connected with the credit card information being transmitted on a Wi-Fi network, Wolf said.

Wolf credited Director of Maintenance Gary Williams and his staff with the “brilliant” design of the driver shields, which will be adjustable, he said.

They will cost $300 per bus.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

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