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Say goodbye to the swipe. PATH officials are gearing up to unveil the SmartCard - a $73-million refillable fare program destined to make the QuickCard and MetroCard obsolete. The agency will begin offering the cards - which are refillable using cash, credit or debit - starting this summer. Riders simply wave the card over the reader before passing through the turnstiles. Cards don't even need to be taken out of wallets or purses before passing over the scanner.

"It takes only 300 milliseconds to process," said Mark Lavorgna, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. "And you can register your card, so if you lose the card, you don't lose the value." Several senior citizens are now taking part in a pilot program designed to test for any kinks in the system, Lavorgna said.

This summer's launch is the first phase in a multi-agency effort to integrate mass transit. Once the system is up and running, officials at PATH plan to link the SmartCard to a credit or debit card similar to E-Z Pass. The eventual goal is to link PATH with NJ Transit and the New York subway system. "The entire PATH fare system is extremely old," Lavorgna said. "The key is that with this technology, it's adaptable."

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority - which operates the New York City subway system - is also working in conjunction with Mastercard and Citigroup to test a "pay-pass" program that uses a key-chain-like device. PATH riders at the World Trade Center station yesterday gave the speedy system a thumbs-up. "It's a helluva lot easier than those other cards," said Jessica Blaha, 22, who is visiting from Springfield, Mo. "Especially for new people who don't know which way it goes."

© 2006 The Jersey Journal © 2006 All Rights Reserved.

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