As a way of blocking deadbeats from riding the subway, Metro is starting to enforce a new rule preventing passengers without at least 65 cents' value on their farecards from entering station gates.

As of yesterday, gates at the Judiciary Square and Gallery Place stations already were programmed to keep out would-be passengers with undervalued cards. More stations will be keyed into the new farecard program each day until the entire rail system is covered next Tuesday.

Currently, 65 cents is the minimum cost of a ride during rush hours and the full cost of a ride anywhere on the subway in off-peak hours. Up to now, people with farecards containing as little as 5 cents in value have been permitted to enter the subway system, ride to their destinations and then pay whatever remaining fare is due by using the addfare machine.

Marilyn Dicus, speaking for Metro, said the change is aimed at the increasing number of people who have entered the subway, ridden where they wanted to go, and pleaded poverty with station attendants who, rather than calling a policeman, have permitted the apparent deadbeats to leave without paying.

Also, Dicus said, the new rule is designed to shorten lines at the addfare machines.

Theoretically, it seems to MetroScene, it's a good idea. In practice, I have my doubts. I regularly buy a $10 farecard, but, as it's used, the gates so rarely print the remaining balance legibly that it's often impossible to know whether $6.50 or 65 cents or a nickel remains.

Dicus suggests that passengers in doubt check their card's value periodically by running it through the "trade in" slot on a vending machine.