Transit authority announces ticket machine upgrades for simpler streetcar ride

CINCINNATI -- Streetcar riders can wipe the word "validate" from their vocabulary.

In its continued efforts to streamline the process of riding the Cincinnati Bell Connector, the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority -- which oversees streetcar operations -- announced Wednesday improvements to the streetcar's ticket vending machines, located at each of its 18 stops throughout The Banks, Downtown and Over-the-Rhine.

Previously, purchasing a ticket was a two-step process: Buy the ticket, and then validate the ticket before boarding by reinserting the ticket into the machine, in order for the fare to be time-stamped. Tickets are valid for either two hours or 24 hours, and cost $1 or $2 respectively.

Now, SORTA said in a news release, tickets will come auto-validated, eliminating the second step that many riders initially said caused confusion at the stations as early as the first week of streetcar operations.

SORTA CEO and General Manager Dwight Ferrell at the Richter & Phillips streetcar stop at the corner of Main and Sixth streets in downtown Cincinnati. (Pat LaFleur/WCPO)

Transit officials' first attempt to clarify the process included new signage at each station, reminding riders of the validation step.

The improvements came at the request of the city, which oversees the transit authority, and also included more prominently displayed fare options and new informational decals, including a height measurement display for children under 35 inches, who ride for free, and children under 45 inches, who ride for half fare.

Exact change is still required when paying with cash, according to Wednesday's release.

Transit officials announced the planned improvements to City Council in September, when a representative from SPX Genfare -- the manufacturer of the vending machines -- visited the streetcar stations to assess the issues, which also included faulty credit card chip readers.

One official called it a "teething problem," in that Cincinnati's streetcar was the first to use the new chip reader hardware.

SORTA CEO and General Manager Dwight Ferrell said issues with ticket vending machines is common when launching new transit systems.

"In my thirty years in transit, I've noticed ticket vending machines seem to cause the most stress, because, until you're up and running, you don't see the issues," he said.

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