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.