Metro to cut cost for SmarTrip card

Metro plans big changes in its fare collection system. (Marlon Correa/The Washington Post)

Metro is taking a step in the right direction on an issue that has been debated since the transit authority introduced its plastic SmarTrip fare card: It’s cutting the cost.

Starting Oct. 1, the price of the card will drop from $5 to $2. Describing the change during Thursday’s Metro board meeting, General Manager Richard Sarles noted that the new price will match the surcharge a rider pays for a round-trip using a paper fare card.

The $5 fee was well above the cost of making the cards. Occasional riders, tourists and people with low incomes chafed at the need to spending $5 just for the privilege of paying the fare.

There was an interim step: Right now, riders buying the $5 SmarTrip card can get a $3 rebate when they register the card online.

The change effective Oct. 1 means that riders will buy the card for $2 at Metro sales offices and commuter stores. If they use one of the SmarTrip card vending machines in Metrorail stations, they will continue to pay $10, but that will become a $2 payment for the card and $8 worth of fare value.

More changes in the fare system are coming, Sarles said. The transit authority plans to award a contract this year for a new payment system, something in addition to SmarTrip. Riders would then be able to pay at the fare gates by tapping a mobile phone or a debit or credit card.

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region.
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