PATH to discontinue QuickCard, replace with limited-use contactless smart card

Several months ago I first mentioned a press release indicating that the Port Authority was planning to procure limited-use contactless smart cards. At the time I surmised that the Port Authority would likely discontinue the existing QuickCard and replace it with a new limited-use version of the SmartLink card. Now, the Port Authority has released a video on YouTube which details their plans for the new cards.

The QuickCard is indeed being discontinued, and will be replaced with a new limited-use contactless smart card. The new card will drop the QuickCard branding in favor of the SmartLink brand, and will be referred to as SmartLink Gray. SmartLink Gray cards will be sold in the same denominations as the QuickCard, and from the same locations. Like the QuickCard, SmartLink Gray will be non-refillable.

I have yet to see any publicity surrounding the new cards other than the YouTube video linked above, and @PATHTweet’s tweet about the video (which seems to have been subsequently deleted). At the same time, this is not a change which will result in much disruption to riders or which necessarily merits a big publicity campaign. The worst that may happen is that some riders may try to feed the new card into the slot on the front of the Universal Gate (which is for the magnetic stripe reader, used for MetroCards and QuickCards). With luck, the card will be returned without causing a jam. The new cards are supposed to go on sale “in early December 2010” (which is right about now), so I would hope that there will be at least some effort to educate riders so that they know what to expect when they start using SmartLink Gray.

Finally, WMATA and other agencies still using paper farecards would do well to take note of these developments; this is the future for paper farecards. Polyester cards, like the MetroCard or CTA’s Transit Card, are more durable and not such a source of complaints, but paper farecards look downright antiquated nowadays.