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Metro’s ‘unlimited’ pass launches next week

Metro riders often load their pre-tax benefits onto their SmarTrip cards. (Marlon Correa – The Washington Post)

Metro is unveiling a new fare payment option for frequent commuters.

The agency is slated to launch its ‘SelectPass’ on Wednesday for riders who want to pre-pay for April. Under the new pass, previously referred to as “Name Your Own Price”, riders pay a flat fee for unlimited travel on the system within a price range.

Depending on the length of their commute, the pass will cost riders either $81 a month, which covers all trips costing up to $2.25; or $135 a month, which covers travel up to $3.75. For $45, riders can also add unlimited travel on MetroBus to their SelectPass.

The modest price points mean the passes won’t be an option for long-distance commuters — say those commuting from Vienna to Metro Center, who pay $5.45 during peak fares.

But if your commute is a swift hop on the Green Line, say between Columbia Heights and Gallery Place ($2.15), Metro says the pass is right for you. For $126 a month ($81 + $45 for an unlimited bus pass), Metro says, you can have unlimited access to the system.

‘Flexible’ Metro passes are coming this month

In either case, the fee is equivalent to 18 days’ worth of roundtrip fares. Contrast that with Metro’s 28-day fast pass, which — at $237 — can cost as much as four weeks of roundtrip commute fares, or more.

Metro says the new pass will be loaded onto riders’ SmarTrip cards at the beginning of the month. For any trip exceeding the base fare, the difference is charged to the SmarTrip card. Metro says riders will be able to auto-reload at least $10 onto their SmarTrip cards as backup, in case their trip exceeds the established price.

In response to an inquiry about why its price points don’t account for long-distance commuters, Metro said the prices were picked based on research “to maximize the number of people who would use the pilot.”

“Remember, this is only a pilot and we will refine the program as we go along,” said Metro spokesman Richard L. Jordan.

The agency said the passes are viable for passengers who ride Metro four or more times every week, and pay between $2.15 and $3.75 one way, saving them 20 percent or more over the course of the month. Metro says SmartBenefits transit subsidies will completely cover the cost of a SelectPass. Riders can sign up for a SelectPass here.

In December, when its board approved the new passes, Metro said the pilot would last three to six months.