(Robert Thomson – The Washington Post)

As part of a long-term, $200 million plan to radically change Metro’s fare-collection system, the transit agency says it will launch a pilot program next year that will allow passengers at some subway stations and bus stops to use smartphones and other mobile devices, as well as debit and credit cards, to pay for their rides.

The test of the new fare-collection technology, set to begin in January, will take place at the Shady Grove, Eisenhower Avenue, Bethesda, Pentagon City, Pentagon, Ballston, Gallery Place, Farragut West, Navy Yard and Suitland stations, the transit agency said.

Metro said the pilot program also will be available to riders on six bus routes: the 37 (Wisconsin Avenue Limited), X9 (Benning Road-H Street Limited), 39 (Pennsylvania Avenue Limited), K9 (New Hampshire Avenue Limited), J4 (College Park-Bethesda Limited) and REX (Richmond Highway Express). Parking garages at the Shady Grove and Suitland Metro station also will be included in the program.

Metro has said in the past that by 2020, as part of its $200 million overhaul of the fare-collection system — involving the installation of a new generation of gates that use “near-field capability,” or NFC — riders will be able to pay with credit or debit cards or mobile devices without removing the plastic or devices from their pockets or bags.

In the first phase of the overhaul, the agency plans to eliminate paper fare cards at the end of 2015.

Installation of new, more modern fare gates for the pilot program will begin in October at the 10 test stations and on some buses, Metro said. Because riders who use the system will have to download software and register with the transit agency, Metro said it will soon begin recruiting customers who want to participate in the test.

“The new fare system will allow riders to pay for their trip using a variety of new methods, without the need to convert U.S. currency to Metro fare value,” the agency said. “For example, visitors to the region will be able to enter and exit the rail system and pay for their trip using many types of NFC-equipped or contactless credit or debit cards and mobile devices, all without stopping at a fare machine or purchasing a SmarTrip card.”

Also, federal workers eventually will be able to use their workplace identification cards, Metro said.