Money Train


My D.C. commemorative Mega Millions ticket wasn’t worth a cent, so I’m pinning my hopes on another lottery: the Metro survey. Through May 25, randomly selected riders at all 86 stations will be asked to answer a few questions about their current trips — and a handful of these people will win SmarTrip cards.

Free commutes can’t quite compare to more than half a billion dollars, but I’d still like to win. I bet you would too. That’s why I want to suggest to Metro that this promotion doesn’t have to stop when the survey period is over. What if every time you swipe a fare card, you’re entered into a drawing?

Millions of people were willing to queue up for ages to get lottery tickets, and that got them nowhere. At least with Metro, you’ll arrive at your destination, so you’re not left totally empty-handed if you lose.

It’d encourage anyone who hasn’t registered a SmarTrip card yet to bite the bullet. It’d provide an extra incentive for people to pick transit over their cars. And, most importantly for Metro, it’d generate goodwill among riders fed up with endless repairs and delays. Forget “Metro opens doors.” It’s time for a new slogan, like “You’ve gotta ride to win.”

Prizes don’t have to be huge. We all know Metro’s too strapped for cash to be handing out cars. (That would probably send the wrong message anyway.) But what about two $50 winners a week? A mere $5,200 a year is a small price to pay to get 104 people — and hopefully their friends — to feel a jolt of anticipation every time they board a train.

Introducing a game of chance to one’s commute isn’t totally novel. Virginia’s Try Transit Week every September allows people who pledge to ditch their cars the opportunity to win Amtrak tickets and transit passes. Folks who show up at the pit stops organized for Bike to Work Day, which will be May 18 in D.C. this year, can score bikes and other fabulous raffle prizes.

But I’m thinking of something more along the lines of the 2012 Commuter Challenge, which is run by Minnesota’s Metro Transit. Riders who commit to getting to work without driving between April and June are entered into a drawing for Kindles and netbooks. If they track their trips online each week, they’re entered into more drawings.

If it didn’t require moving to Minnesota, that’d sound like a winning idea to me.

Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.

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