SmarTrip Cards Going the Way of EZPass
Metro hopes to encourage riders to use the plastic farecards
Metro is rolling out changes for the system's SmarTrip cards, including automatically reloading values and vending locations in all stations. Some changes will be implemented by July 1, others will roll out in September and still more are in the works for 2013 and 2014.
SmarTrip will soon offer an "auto reload" function similar to EZPass drivers use to pay road tolls. By signing up online and linking a credit or debit with a the SmarTrip card, users can opt to have value loaded automatically onto a card whenever the balance drops below a personally specified amount.
Additionally, metro is installing vending locations in stations throughout the system to allow users to buy a SmarTrip card on the spot.
"The installation process has already begun, and the top 10 stations where paper fare cards are sold, including Foggy Bottom, Union Station, Smithsonian and Rosslyn will have SmarTrip dispensers by July 1," according to a press release from Metro.
Some 90 percent of Metrobus riders and more than 80 percent of Metrorail users rely on the plastic cards.
For Metro, the benefits include a reduced "need for paper fare cards, and also cuts costs and fraud," according to a press release.
For users the the cards offer both convenience and cost-saving benefits.
Currently, bus riders using SmarTrip receive a 20-cents per ride discount, free bus-to-bus transfers and a 50-cent rail transfer discount. On July 1, Metrorail will start charging $1 more per trip for riders who use paper fare cards.
- Beginning July 1, customers will be able to load one-day rail passes, previously available only on paper farecards, and the new 28-day rail passes onto SmarTrip for added convenience. Metro already has a number of passes available on SmarTrip including the weekly bus pass and seven-day Rail Fast Pass.
- Starting Sept. 1, Metro will begin offering $3 rebates to customers who register their cards online after purchase. The cards will still cost $5, but a $3 credit will be refunded to the card five days after first use. SmarTrip card registration also protects a rider’s balance if the card is lost or stolen. Since introducing SmarTrip cards in 1996, riders have paid $5 for the card.
- Future SmarTrip initiatives planned for 2013 and 2014 include developing a mobile application to give customers all of the functions of the SmarTrip self-service website on their mobile phones, enabling riders to purchase passes with SmartBenefits and allowing customers to add value to SmarTrip cards at the exit fare machines.