TARC's cashless fare system screws poor people

TARC's cashless fair system screws poor people.

TARC (Louisville's public transportation company) is getting ready to roll out a new fare system.

The new system will still accept cash/coin fares and will add the ability to use a smartcard which can be preloaded with up to $100.

Initially, smartcards will be free. After launch, replacements will cost $5. Money can be put on the cards at the main TARC office or online. There will also be a limited number of retail locations where money can be put on the smart cards.

TARC states that the ~$5 million undertaking will make fare collection easier and make the boarding process more efficient.


Unfortunately, there's an unpleasant side to all of this. For full details, see the revised MyTARC fare policy.

More expensive fares if you pay cash

People who use the smartcard will pay $1.50 for a single fare while people paying cash will pay the current rate of $1.75.

No transfers if you pay cash

Currently, every rider gets a transfer good for 3 hours after the first ride. Under the new system, only smartcard users will get transfers.

Smartcards can't be shared easily

From the TARC FAQ on the new fare system:

The fare box will not accept multiple uses of the same smartcard for payment of more than a single ride per trip, regardless of the kinds of value on the card.

People qualifying for discounted fares will be required to use a smartcard.

Are you a student, senior, disabled person, or Medicare cardholder? You are required to use a smartcard to get the discounted rate.

Potentially difficult to reload smartcards

There isn't a lot of information yet but there aren't going to be very many physical locations where smartcards can be reloaded and there isn't a clear plan for when more will be added.

The easiest way to reload a card is with a credit card online which is difficult for people without easy access to a computer or don't have a credit card.


The upshot is that people who have to pay cash and have no alternative to using TARC are the people getting the short end of this upgrade.

They have to pay more for fares while losing their inability to transfer.

If they do opt for a smartcard and can't reload it online, they're going to have to spend that much extra time travelling to some location to reload the card.

The people who need TARC the most are the ones who are going to suffer.