The Charlotte Area Transit System plans to introduce a new, reusable “smart card” system for passengers, which will allow people to treat a ticket as a debit card, which is common in large cities.

The City Council on Monday approved spending $7.7 million with Genfare-SPX on a new fare box system for buses to replace ones that are nearly 20 years old and often break down. The new fare boxes will accept different kinds of payment options, such as cash and debit and credit cards. Eventually, the new boxes will be able to accept reusable smart cards as well as payment by phone.

‘Today’s customers rely on smartcard and smart phone payment options,” the city said in a statement following the council vote. “Seventy percent of millennials and Gen-Xers use smart phones for payment options. Nearly 50 percent of CATS riders, represented by millennials and Gen-Xers, desire smartcard and mobile payment technology along with the existing cash and magnetic pass options.

As the smartcard system phases in, new features will allow passengers to use reloadable fare cards, activate passes through their smart phones or load transit passes on existing cards such as student ids or bank cards, the city said. The system will also issue change cards to passengers when they use $5 or $10 bills.

CATS said its first priority is to install the new boxes. After that, it will work to start the new payment options in 2017 or 2018, including the smart cards.

The Lynx Blue Line trains allow passengers to board without passing a fare box. The transit system said its fare inspectors will eventually have scanners that will be able to read the smart card tickets to ensure people have paid.

CATS chief executive John Lewis has speculated that the boxes aren’t counting passengers accurately, which could be one reason that ridership has declined over the past year.

Qcitymetro contributed to this report.