Undoubtedly, this would greatly increase demand for SmarTrip cards — especially once every station is equipped with a machine that sells them — as I suspect many tourists would use the cards for a few days or a week and then throw them out.
I remember reading, however, that the company that made SmarTrip is no longer producing them, so once the current supply is exhausted, the system will have to be replaced. This sounds like a major expense. Why would Metro want to hasten the time when replacement of the electronic fare system will be necessary? This sounds like a penny-wise but pound-foolish decision to me.
Jim Cohen, Bethesda
DG: So far, anger among riders has been focused on why the transit staff is proposing to charge more for a product that many riders think is declining in quality. About that, Metro General Manager Richard Sarles says that the transit system wasn’t maintained as it should have been and needs to undergo extensive repairs and upgrades that are going to cost us more money.
As a management concept, that sounds reasonable, but as a consumer concept, it doesn’t work so well. A rider says, “I don’t care about your long-term business model; I’m paying for your product today.”
There are also two ways of looking at the proposed flat fare for paper Farecards. The flat fare is supposed to make it easier for tourists to figure out the pricing system, which otherwise is based on time and distance. But the pricing is steep because Metro wants to drive more people to use the electronic SmarTrip cards.
So, which is it? Do we want paper cards to be easier to use or more difficult?
Don’t worry about the supply of SmarTrip cards, said Carol Kissal, Metro’s chief financial officer. She told me last week that Metro is on the verge of getting a new supply of chips for the cards. She expects them to start arriving in the spring. This won’t be the next generation of the electronic fare system. That’s still a ways off. Riders who buy SmarTrip cards later this year shouldn’t notice any change in the way they work, but at least they will be available.
New bridge challenge
There have been some dramatic changes for drivers as work advances on the District’s 11th Street Bridge replacement. A traveler responded to one of my statements about the new traffic pattern for the inbound span.
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I disagree profoundly with your comment [Dr. G’s tips, Dec. 25] that access to Interstate 395 from northbound Interstate 295 has improved because northbound drivers no longer need to change lanes.
Although this perhaps benefits drivers from Virginia or Southeast Washington, it creates an extremely dangerous result for drivers from Maryland who for decades have been making what is essentially a U-turn at Howard Road or Suitland Parkway to cross the inbound 11th Street Bridge.