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Metro, Capital Bikeshare want to lure back riders: Sign up for mobile SmarTrip and get free bike rides

The promotion, available through December, is one more incentive that the region’s leaders are using to get residents back.

Bikes owned by Capital Bikeshare sit in bike racks at 12th and Independence Avenue NW. (James A. Parcell for The Washington Post)
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If you ride Metro and want to give the region’s rental bicycles a try, Metro and Capital Bikeshare have a deal for you: Those who sign up to pay their Metro fare virtually will get 10 free Capital Bikeshare rides.

The promotion, available through December, is one more incentive that the region’s leaders are using to get residents back onto public transportation after 16 months of slow ridership because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In recent months, local transit agencies have announced reduced or free fares, service adjustments and new amenities such as WiFi and allowing bikes aboard trains. Metro plans to lower the cost of weekend Metrorail trips and to increase bus and train frequencies in the fall. Capital Bikeshare, which has stations across the region, is planning a multimillion-dollar expansion.

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Officials say they hope commuters returning to the office this year will take advantage of free rides on one of the more than 5,000 bikes in the regional bike-share system to connect to the train and bus.

“As our region continues to reopen, it is more important than ever to ensure our residents have access to convenient and affordable transit options,” Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks said in a statement. The partnership between Metro and Capital Bikeshare, she said, should “get more transit users in the County and across the region to ride bicycles, while making it more convenient for them to pay their transit fares through mobile pay.”

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For Metro, the bike-share deal is another effort to get more riders to ditch plastic SmarTrip cards and use phones to pay rail and bus fares. The transit agency has been promoting virtual pay since it introduced the option last fall. About 10 percent of Metro’s daily ridership uses Metro’s mobile fare payment platforms, according to Metro.

Since September, iPhone users have been able to access SmarTrip accounts from their phones using Apple’s virtual Wallet or a new app that Metro created. A version for Google Pay became available to Metro riders with Android phones in June.

Virtual fare cards are accepted at all Metro parking lots and garages, as well as on other local transit systems, including D.C. Circulator, Arlington’s ART, Alexandria’s DASH, the Fairfax Connector, Montgomery’s Ride On and Prince George’s TheBus.

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Metro officials said the partnership will supply customers with an easy and affordable connection for the “first mile/last mile” of their trip between home, work or other destinations, while also encouraging customers to make the switch to SmarTrip mobile.

Transit officials also touted mobile SmarTrip as a “contactless way to pay” that is safer and more convenient in the covid era. The virtual cards work when phones are held within a few inches from fare readers. Riders don’t need to touch card readers or vending machines.

Metro in June said it is waiving a $2 SmarTrip card fee for Android users who purchase a virtual card through December.

The free bike-share rides are available to Metro passengers who purchase a virtual SmarTrip card or transfer their plastic SmarTrip card to mobile pay on Android, iPhone or Apple Watch. They will receive 10 free 30-minute rides on Capital Bikeshare. The free rides will be valid for 30 days. The deal is also available to Metro riders who already have virtual payment.

The promotion is for residents of the Capital Bikeshare member jurisdictions, which includes the District, Alexandria and Falls Church, and Arlington, Fairfax, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. Riders can opt-in to the free bike rides on the Metro website and can activate rides on their Capital Bikeshare or Lyft account. Rides are free on pedal rides and riders can upgrade to an e-bike for $1.

David F. Snyder, a Falls Church council member, said he hopes the partnership between Capital Bikeshare and Metro will help bring riders back to the transit system.

“These services are essential to our region,” he said, adding that it’s also critical to the vision “for a more connected and environmentally friendly transportation system.”