Friday, April 30, 2010

PATH SmartCard use grows as part of overall rail modernization program

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PATH SmartCard use grows as part of overall rail modernization program | Railway Track & Structures

Sales of SmartCards for travel on PATH trains has hit a record, jumping to more than 50 percent of market share on the rail line. SmartCard use, which has tripled in two years, has eclipsed use of MetroCards, which total about 40 percent of payment methods on PATH lines. PATH QuickCards make up most of the remainder of fare choices. PATH's Automated Fare Collection System was installed in 2003 to phase-out obsolete payment methods of cash and magnetic-strip cards.

PATH SmartLink is a plastic, state-of-the-art contactless card that features an embedded computer chip that tracks the number of PATH trips available or travel days remaining for a customer. Cards may be automatically replenished when linked to a customer's credit card.

Growth of SmartCard is just one of the Port Authority's efforts to upgrade PATH from one of the nation's oldest rail systems to one of the most modern. The 10-year, multi-billion dollar program calls for replacing all 340 PATH railcars by 2011, replacing the line's signal system and modernizing stations.

In 2010, the Port Authority's overall $3.1-billion capital budget includes $357 million for capital spending on PATH projects to help create a 21st Century system that ensures the rail line's long-term viability, improves reliability and protects the safety of our riders. Last year alone, PATH handled nearly 72.6 million passengers.

Replacement of older rail cars, some of which date to the mid-1960s, is well under way, with more than one-third of the entire new 340-car fleet already delivered by the Yonkers-based manufacturer, Kawasaki Rail Car. A total of 102 new trains already are in full service, with 17 others in the acceptance test phase. Another 91 railcars are anticipated for delivery by year's end, with the remainder on track to arrive in 2011.

"Our multi-billion investment in PATH is helping to transform it into the nation's most modern commuter rail system - from the way customers pay to the cars they ride in,' said Port Authority Chairman Anthony Coscia. "We are keeping our long-term promise to invest in mass-transit to help ease traffic congestion and improve the region's quality of life."

"Investing in PATH is an investment in our region's mobility,' said Bill Baroni, the Port Authority's deputy executive director. "For nearly 50 years, the Port Authority has operated PATH, saving it from bankruptcy at the outset and embarking on the modernization program in recent years. We want to make sure PATH is a model transit system for the nation over the next half-century."

PATH's antiquated, mechanical signal system is giving way to a state-of-the-art, computerized signal system that will improve reliability, safety and operations. The upgrade means less distance will be required between trains, increasing system capacity by up to 20 percent when the entire project is scheduled for completion by the end of 2015.

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