HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — Coast RTA will soon debut a new, cashless fare collection system Sept. 22.

Bus rides have been free for the majority of the past two years because of the pandemic and buses’ unreliable fare boxes that are 12 years old.

Starting on Sept. 22, riders can tap debit and credit cards and can use their phones to pay. Bus rides will cost $1 per trip. That’s a reduction from $1.50, but Coast RTA will no longer offer 25-cent transfers. Instead, Coast RTA will give tap riders a discounted fourth ride and unlimited free rides after that. The most a cashless rider will pay in one day is $3.50.

“Trying to reduce the amount of time people are lingering at the front of the bus is probably the biggest issue,” Coast RTA General Manager Brian Piascik said. “Secondly, our fare box equipment is quite antiquated at this point.”

Piascik said the agency has been working toward implementing a cashless system for the past year.

“We’re really excited about being able to do it, and we could use the revenue,” Piascik said. “I’m hopeful people will understand why we’re doing it and appreciate the lengths that we’ve gone to to make it easy to pay and as efficient as possible.”

Cash will still be accepted during the transition but exact change only.

“Those who don’t have bank accounts and that type of thing, we need to make sure that they have a way to access the system,” Piascik said.

Piascik said they could pay for roughly 10% of Coast RTA’s yearly operating costs with fares returning.

“It’ll pay for fuel,” Piascik said. “We’re anxious to get it back in there.”

Coast RTA bus drivers are alerting passengers about the changes. Some riders said they are prepared.

“Can’t be free forever,” Ronald Setliff said. “You know, all good things must come to an end.”

Coast RTA is also seeking public input on a proposed site for a new transfer center in Myrtle Beach.