The days of fumbling though a wallet or purse to find a PATH or MetroCard when traveling underground to and from the city may be a thing of the past.

Thanks to a nearly $75 million technology upgrade, the Port Authority has begun allotting an all-purpose card to senior citizens called SmartLink that allow commuters to go through PATH turnstiles by simply waving their wallets or card holders as they pass by.

Security chips embedded in Manhattan office building security doors and elevators permit employees with the same convenience at some of the more modern office buildings in the city, and that technology will eventually be coming to all PATH stations in Hoboken, Jersey City, Newark and Manhattan this summer for all riders young and old.

One notable advantage of the SmartCard will be a rider’s ability to refill their individual accounts automatically. By registering their cards with the Port Authority, it will enable users to replenish their accounts automatically by connecting them to bank accounts, similar to the option that a driver has with an EZ-Pass cards. Registered cards will be protected if they are stolen or lost.

The SmartCard initiative won’t be happening in New York subway systems for awhile, however. The MTA, which controls the New York transit system, plans to test an alternate method at 25 subway stations in April. This alternate payment plan would allow CitiGroup and MasterCard debit and credit cards to be used without the purchase of a MetroCard in the same fashion as a SmartCard, so this venture appears to be a higher priority than the SmartCard project for now.

The MTA and Port Authority look to expand SmartCards to the ferry system as well, but the implementation and coordination of such an effort may not complete until at least 2007.

The technology upgrades will not mean an increase in fares, as the PA indicates that it plans to maintain the current $1.50 fare. As a test run, the PA is availing a limited number of cards to a few dozen elderly riders who are getting applications via snail mail.

Port Authority officials expect the SmartCard to replace the current QuickCard in the same manner the QuickCard replaced the token.

For Hoboken commuters, anything that expedites a crowded commute is always welcome.