PSTA to begin use of new Flamingo Fares technology

Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority will be implementing Flamingo Fares sometime this spring. The new technology allows riders to pay for their bus rides using a smart card or smartphone app, eliminating the need for bus passes.

ST. PETERSBURG — Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority began beta testing new Flamingo Fares technology on Feb. 1. If all goes as planned, bus passes will soon become a thing of the past.

Chief Development Officer Cassandra Borchers provided information to the PSTA Board during the Jan. 29 meeting about the new technology and a proposed revision to the fare policy.

According to information at www.flamingofares.com, Borchers is talking about a new regional payment system designed to simplify transit use. Flamingo Fares allows riders to pay using a re-loadable smart card or smartphone app, which can be used at participating transit agencies.

Counties participating in Flamingo Fares include Hernando (TheBus), Hillsborough (HART/TECO Line Streetcar System), Pasco (PCPT), Pinellas (PSTA/Jolley Trolley) and Sarasota (SCAT).

When the new system is implemented, which is currently scheduled to occur sometime this spring, bus riders will be able to load funds onto their Flamingo Fares card or app, negating the need to buy bus passes in advance.

Borchers said there will be a transition period during which time bus passes can still be used.

She also introduced the fare structure that will go into effect when the Flamingo system is launched. She said the new structure will be more efficient and customers will be able to take advantage of products, such as fare capping.

Fare capping offers a best value option, she said. Customers will load money into their account, which is stored on a smartcard or the mobile app. When a customer pays to ride the bus, the fares paid are accumulated in the account.

When the accumulated value of trips paid reach $5 during a one day period, the customer earns a day pass and the rest of that day’s trips are free.

PSTA also will offer monthly fare capping, which works off a calendar month. Once a customer has paid $70, the customer will earn a monthly pass and the rest of the trips that month are free.

Because of the ability for fare capping, PSTA will eliminate the three-day and seven-day bus fares.

Borchers said customers eligible for reduced fares will also be able to take advantage of fare capping using reduced daily and monthly fares.

The cost of a regular trip will be $2.25 with a reduced rate of $1.10. Fare capping for regular customers will be capped at $5 a day and $2.50 for those eligible for a reduced rate. The monthly cap of $70 will be cut to $35 for those on reduced rates.

Customers also will be able to buy a $10 group pass, which will be good for up to five people.

PSTA conducted an equity analysis for all fare changes and concluded there are no negative impacts for minority or low-income riders, Borchers said.

Customers need to be aware that using buses in other counties would require additional payment with the exception of the Passport fare in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.

Use of Flamingo Fares will reduce PSTA’s revenues by an estimated $305,000 a year; however, $175,000 in savings is projected due to decreased costs.

The board unanimously approved the changes.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.