We've had several riders ask why the value they load onto their ConnectCard via our website can take up to 72 hours to become available.
This sometimes is followed up with a comparison to Starbucks, which allows users to load money onto their card and makes it available almost immediately.
When you load money onto your Starbucks card, your credit card is charged and the money is added to your account. When your friendly barista swipes your card, the register connects to Starbucks' network, checks the balance, deducts the purchase amount from your card, and credits the store in which you purchased your latte or Frappuccino. In this case, your balance resides on Starbucks' network.
Our system works the opposite way: Your balance resides on the card.
When you make a purchase through our online self-service web portal, we charge your credit card, create an "action item" that is sent to all of our equipment, which must be picked up by your card.
Stationary equipment like ticket kiosks, validators and machines they have at stores like Giant Eagle download these action items once a day, seven days a week, but the fareboxes on our vehicles -- because we do not connect to our network every time a card is tapped on a vehicle -- only download the action items when they're taken back to the garage at night.
So, if everything is updated once a day, why do you sometimes have to wait up to 72 hours?
Consider this example: Bus 1234 completes its final run of the week at 9:45 p.m. on Friday, goes to the garage and downloads the action items that are waiting. You go online at 10 p.m. and load $20 onto your ConnectCard. The action item is created and sent out at 11 p.m.
Come Monday morning, you board bus 1234 and the farebox tells you that you have insufficient funds. This is because not all of our buses operate on weekends, and the farebox for bus 1234 hasn't been updated since before you loaded the value onto your card.
You can "push" the updated balance to your card by tapping it at a kiosk or at the Downtown Service Center. The screen will show you your new balance before you even walk away so you can board your bus with confidence that you'll have value on it to pay for your ride.
We rolled out the first of about 85 new wayfinding signs in the Downtown area earlier this year.
The new signs provide riders with more information than ever before: most of them have at least one (some have two) information panels that show how frequent the bus will serve that particular stop and the operating times of those buses. Other signs have the information panels, but also feature a black-and-white digital display that shows realtime bus GPS information and generally work the same way several third-party mobile apps or our TrueTime website does.
There also are signs that have what we call "lollipops."
Like in the picture above (that's actually a scaled-down prototype we have in our office), the lollipop is a round sign at the top of the pole with a letter inside.
We've had several riders ask: "What's up with the letter at the top of the signs?"
The letter corresponds with our station maps, which group together bus routes that pick up at the same location. Although the route you're looking for most likely picks up at a few different places Downtown, the location displayed on the map corresponds with the closest stop to the station.
For example, if you're looking at the station map at the Wood Street Station, and you're trying to get to the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Point Breeze, you'd look at the map under "Neighborhoods," locate Point Breeze, and see that Point Breeze corresponds with the letter "A" on the map. In this case, "A" is just up the street at Sixth and Wood.
Once you arrive at Sixth and Wood, you'll know you're in the right location because of the large "A" at the top of the sign.
You can then look for route information and bus frequency on the panel at the stop.
As you might have guessed, the lollipops are likely more helpful for riders who are unfamiliar with the system or are visiting Pittsburgh and are not regular Port Authority riders.
It's much easier for a doorman or concierge at a Downtown hotel to tell a guest to "go to the X at the end of the street" to find the bus that'll take them to their destination than to know every bus route or be familiar with every stop.