The Washington Post

Metro electronic pass for D.C. students experiencing delays

A program that was supposed to make it easier for D.C. students to ride the Metro with an electronic pass probably won’t be up and running in full swing until later this year, District and Metro officials said Wednesday.

The District Department of Transportation launched an effort this summer to allow students from kindergarten through 12th grade to use discounted fare cards to ride Metro buses and trains. Students could enroll to use the D.C. One Card — which they already used to access recreation centers and libraries — on Metro’s transit system.

One key feature of the program is supposed to be that students will be able to renew passes at any Metro station, instead of taking an application from school to a division of DDOT and then a Metro sales office. But students can’t renew their cards at any Metro station because of a problem with the transit agency’s software.

Metro expects to fix the problem by November or December, spokesman Dan Stessel said.

The One Card has an embedded SmarTrip chip. Metro has had problems with SmarTrip and plans to roll out a new electronic payment system that lets riders use bank cards, federal identification and some smart phones to ride the system.

“The technology is old,” Stessel said of SmarTrip. “Anytime you’re talking about implementing new features or functionality to a fare technology that is 12 years old, it is sometimes not as easy as we would want it to be.”

A pilot program for students at School Without Walls went well, officials said, but renewing the electronic fare cards was not part of it.

The program was delayed because the District had a backlog of 2,500 applications and brought in staff over the Labor Day weekend to process them, said John Lisle, a spokesman for DDOT.

Some students and parents waited until the last minute to turn in applications, Lisle said. Last year, the District hired part-time workers to help process forms, Lisle said, but that wasn’t done this year because of budget cuts.

Dana Hedgpeth is a Post reporter, working the early morning, reporting on traffic, crime and other local issues.


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