CHARLESTON (AP) — Charleston’s bus authority spends about one dollar of every 27 dollars it collects in its fare boxes just to count money.

The Charleston Regional Area Transportation Authority pays an armored car company $100,000 a year to come in and count the coins and bills used to pay bus fares. That is more money than the authority pays to clean its bus shelters, according to The Post and Courier of Charleston reports.

The authority doesn’t have much of a choice because it doesn’t have the technology to take smartcards and having its employees count the cash is just too much to do with their other responsibilities, said authority interim executive director Jeff Burns.

“You have to carry the money, collect the money, count the money,” Burns said.

The authority does sell magnetic strip passes that include a discount, but most rides still choose to pay with cash, Burns said.

Dunbar Armored has the contract to count the money. Three times a week, the company’s workers come into a locked vault, count the bills and coins and put them on an armored truck for deposit. The coins can be dumped into a machine and counted. But the bills have to be unfolded and uncrumpled before that can be sent through counting machines, officials said.

Most of the authority’s budget comes from Charleston County’s half-penny sales tax and federal subsidies. But cash fare still account for more than 13 percent of the budget.

The trend across the country is for bus authorities to move to smartcards or other pay methods so less revenue is spent on counting. “In a general sense, cash is continuing to drop as a method of payment, as many are now using smart cards on buses where most cash transactions occur,” said Martin Schroeder, chief technology officer at the American Public Transportation Association.

But Burns said just 17 of the Charleston authority’s buses could take smartcards, and the agency doesn’t have a system yet to sell and process the cards.


Information from: The Post and Courier,