With Metro’s fare changes scheduled to take effect Sunday, most of the questions and comments I’ve been getting have to do with paper Farecards and passes.
Paper Farecard surcharge: “Is there now, or has there been announced, a surcharge for buying paper Farecards? If so, how will it work?”
DG: There’s a surcharge, but it doesn’t affect the purchase of paper cards. It affects Metrorail trips taken using the cards.
Right now, Metro charges 25 cents more for trips paid for with paper. (Metro tends to refer to this as the SmarTrip card “discount.”) Starting Sunday, the surcharge will rise to $1 for each trip using a paper card.
For years, transit officials have been pushing rail and bus riders to get the plastic SmarTrip cards. They’re more efficient for Metro to administer, create some online conveniences for riders and make bus boardings faster.
With the $1 surcharge, this could be the final battle in Metro’s war on paper. But a couple of things are out of sync for riders ready to make the move to SmarTrip cards.
Though riders can buy SmarTrip cards online, not all stations have SmarTrip vending machines. And the cards still cost $5.
Metro is still adding machines at stations. By the end of this week, the transit authority says, the 10 stations where the most paper cards get sold will have SmarTrip vending machines. Those stations are: Foggy Bottom, Dupont Circle, Union Station, Crystal City, Rosslyn, Pentagon City, Farragut West, Gallery Place, Smithsonian and Reagan National Airport.
The price of the cards will remain at $5. A program offering a $3 rebate for purchasers who register their cards online won’t begin until September. That’s unfortunate for people thinking about how to set up their out of town guests this summer, and for large groups planning vacation visits to D.C.
Metro passes: “This is the last week for the weekly paper pass ($47 each), right? How long before SmartTrip passes start, and why are they so expensive?”
DG: This is the last week for the seven-day fast pass at $47. It’s replacement will be the seven-day fast pass at $57.50. Right now, the fast pass is available on paper or as an add-on to a SmarTrip card. The paper version will be sold only until Aug. 31. It will be accepted for trips until Dec. 31. After that, it’s SmarTrip only.
The seven-day short trip pass will still be available on paper Farecards, but the price will rise on July 1 from to $32.35 to $35.
The short-trip pass cover most trips within D.C. during rush hours, and allows riders to travel anywhere in the rail system during off-peak and weekends. The fast pass is good for seven days of unlimited Metrorail travel.
There’s a change coming next week in the one-day Metrorail paper pass, a popular one with visitors. The price will rise from $9 to $14, but it will no longer have the time restriction requiring purchasers to use it only after 9:30 a.m.
I’ll have more about the impact of the changes on visitors and groups in my Dr. Gridlock column this Sunday.