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ART System Dropping Use of Paper Transfers

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By Mark Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 1, 2009

Like Metro and most other transit systems in the region, Arlington Transit is going paperless. Beginning Sunday, riders need to use an electronic SmarTrip card to transfer for free from bus to bus or to get the reduced bus fare when shifting from rail to bus.

The transfer time will also be expanded from two hours to three.

Alexandria will continue to use paper transfers on its DASH system, at least for 2009.

"We generally follow the WMATA policy in terms of fares," said Stephen Del Giudice, head of Arlington Transit. "We have some riders who transfer simply from one of our local routes to another local route, but many of our riders transfer between the ART system and the Metrobus system and vice versa. . . . It's one of those things of trying to maintain uniformity and ease of operation with our riders between and among the various systems that they ride."

Bus riders who use SmarTrip cards will continue to pay a $1.25 fare, 10 cents less than riders who pay with cash or a token. Del Giudice said some ART routes, specifically those that feed the Metrorail system, have a high proportion of riders using SmarTrip cards; other routes, including the busiest, ART 41, see fewer SmarTrip cards.

Del Giudice said ART riders also use a combination of payment options including cash, SmarTrip, transfers and discounted rates for seniors as well as middle and high school students.

There are also riders who opt for weekly bus passes, which cost $11 and allow unlimited trips. Del Giudice said ART is expecting an increase in weekly passes for riders who travel by bus but not rail.

Arlington Transit will try to ease the transition for riders next week. Del Giudice said assistance will be available on some bus routes that have high rates of transfer use and cash fares. Transit workers also will offer bilingual assistance to reach out to the Hispanic community and will park a spare bus in the Ballston and Columbia Pike areas Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to demonstrate the SmarTrip cards.

Among other things, the demonstrations will show bus riders who traditionally don't ride the subway that they can add money to their SmarTrip cards using the bus fareboxes, Del Giudice said. The locations for demonstrations will be posted at http://www.arlingtontransit.com.

Alexandria's DASH system will keep paper transfers for now, said Sandy Modell, general manager of Alexandria Transit. She said that SmarTrip cards work on the DASH system but that only about 26 percent of DASH riders use them.

Modell said her agency opted to retain its internal transfer system and reevaluate it next year, while waiting for the ability to add monthly DASH passes to the SmarTrip card.

Metro announced last month that CVS will sell SmarTrip cards at 190 stores in the District, Maryland and Virginia. Modell said that will make it more convenient for DASH bus-only riders in Alexandria to get and add value to SmarTrip cards. When Alexandria Transit decided against eliminating paper transfers, the arrangement with CVS wasn't completed.


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