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Metro peak a.m. fares start Monday

This post will be updated

Metro plans to implement the morning phase of its new "peak-of-the-peak" fare beginning Monday, and users of SmarTrip electronic fare cards will get another complication this fall: They won't be able to exit the system with a negative balance.

The peak-of-the-peak fees affect riders who travel during the busiest periods, between 7:30 and 9 a.m. and 4:30 and 6 p.m. weekdays

Metro implemented the surcharge of 20 cents for riding during the busiest afternoon periods on Aug. 3. However, the transit agency delayed the morning increase due to the complexities of reprogramming the fare system.

This fall Metro also plans to require that SmarTrip users have enough fare to exit the system. The current system allows users to exit even if they don't have enough value stored on the cards for the complete trip. SmarTrip readers will be added to exit fare machines located in the stations, Metro said, but exit fare payments must be made in cash.

The increases are part of an expansive new fare plan that Metro began implementing to help cover a budget deficit of $190 million for the current fiscal year. Metrorail fares rose by about 18 percent overall June 27, although the fares varied with the length of the trip and the time of day. Friday and Saturday night-owl riders started paying peak fares.

As Metro prepared to implement phase 2 of the increases early this month, Metrorail riders were faced with malfunctioning fare gates, glitches with SmarTrip cards and general confusion over fares.

What do you think about the change ahead for SmarTrip users? The fare increases in general? And how have the fare gates been working for you? Post a comment below or send an e-mail to

Metro hits fast lane to implement fare increases
Glitches stall Metro fare increase
Malfunctions add to Metro riders' frustration

Commuters react to peak fares on Twitter (#wmata):

By Michael Bolden  | August 25, 2010; 2:43 PM ET
Categories:  Commuting, Metro  
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Has the reprogramming for the fare increases caused the slight delay I now sense in the card-readers at the turnstiles?

Posted by: lindatop | August 25, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Will they be adding credit card readers at the Exit Fare machines, or do we all need to carry around small amounts of cash constantly? I'm guessing Metro hasn't planned this out (surprise surprise). Go figure, decrease the price to increase usership, and then get rid of one of the most attractive aspects of the Smartrip cards.

Posted by: ianswank | August 25, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Hi, ianswank. The current information from Metro is that exit fare machines will continue to be cash only, but we're asking more questions about this.

Michael Bolden
Development &
Transportation Editor

Posted by: Michael Bolden | August 25, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

When is it going to cost $10 each way and your first born child to ride Metro? It feels more and more like getting across the bridge with the troll when riding metro...

Posted by: Susannah3 | August 25, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

I hate to sound uncharitable, but I can't help but wonder if Metro will implement the SmarTrip restriction without putting SmarTrip readers on all the fare machines behind the gates. That would be in keeping with the delays in implementing the latest fare hikes. And by the way, if they're going to take the trouble to put SmarTrip readers in those machines, why not put credit card readers in as well?

Posted by: weiwentg | August 25, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Why would Metro not include credit card machines for exit fare? Is it that much more expensive to install and operate these machines?

ianswank is right, this does eliminate one of the most useful features about the SmarTrip system. WMATA really is making it harder and harder to support them.

Will this inability go negative also affect bus riders?

Posted by: j_scott | August 25, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

At most you could be what, negative five dollars for one trip? Which you'll presumably have to take care of the next time you ride? And to stop this floating they'll spend money on smart trip readers for every exit fare? Seems like leaving well enough alone could have saved them a few bucks they desperately need. What, did they need the data bit from the minus sign to add in the extra time-dependent conditional fare?

Looking forward to my upcoming move where I'll be using the ART bus for work instead of the semifunctional train system.

Posted by: Stevis16 | August 25, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Oh boy...Metro is making a lot of assumptions here that will result in angrier riders. They assume that:
1. I know how much is on my SmartTrip Card. (It's not printed like on the paper fare cards.)
2. I know how much my ride will cost (that assumes I can figure out the new pricing structure)
3. That my plans don't change between entering the system and leaving
4. I carry coins (but not $1 coins) or $1 or $5 bills (the exit machines don't take anything larger)

Posted by: kim6160 | August 25, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like I will have to go 100% bike to work.

Posted by: paddyfunk | August 25, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

half the time I can't even read the amount on my card when going through the gates, and if I stop and block the glare, they'll probably go back down again

Posted by: jiji1 | August 25, 2010 4:58 PM | Report abuse

And if you don't have cash (which will happen to a lot of people if Metro doesn't get the word out about this -- something they aren't too good at) will you be stuck in the system? Will there also be ATMs on the exit side to get cash out to pay exit fare?

This must already happen now to people without SmarTrips, predominantly tourists I would imagine, but this hasn't been a problem for me as a SmarTrip user so far.

Posted by: j_scott | August 25, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Let me get this straight...Metro's plans for moving into the future is not accepting credit or debit cards at the exit gate? So what happens if I don't have cash/ You arrest me? Just let an angry mob of idiots ride on the train to their next stop and you don't arrest a guy for pulling a knife on another guy. HOWEVER you will arrest me for not having $1.25 in cash because I can't figure out your ridiculous fare structure.

Posted by: stuckintraffictoo | August 25, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

It might not make fiscal sense for Metro to pay for a credit card reader inside the gates because they would lose the transaction fee (1%-5% of the transaction I believe) that the credit card companies charge merchants for every transaction, whereas cash-only would not result in this loss.

Posted by: informedtraveller | August 25, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

j_scott: ATMs won't help. I've never seen one that gives $1 or $5 bills and the exit machines don't take $10s or $20s. They'll need a change machine, too. :)

Posted by: kim6160 | August 25, 2010 5:11 PM | Report abuse


You're absolutely right! Yet another step in this complicated and unnecessary change.

Posted by: j_scott | August 25, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Metro, you suck! I have been a loyal and vocal advocate for public transportation for a long time, even eschewing my family car to support you on my daily commute for years! You have just about pushed me off of the platform and back into my car! I have put up with the safety issues, barely missing the June accident on...... the Red Line last year, being evacuated out of smokey underground stations by firefighters and police officers, tolerating necessary fare increases, and putting up with delay after delay after delay, and walking up broken escalator after broken down escalator, but now, for no clear logical reason, you have decided to take away one of the key benefits of purchasing a SmarTrip card, meaning I will have to be sure to carry cash again to enter and exit the system. Forget it! I am done with you! I want my $5 back and you can take the darned card!

Posted by: dcrowell | August 25, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

$5/gallon gasoline ain't looking so bad right now.

At least I can ride in comfort and privacy.

Posted by: ceefer66 | August 25, 2010 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Can't go negative on smart card machines aren't working. Let's all sing

"Did he ever return, No he never returned
And his fate is still unlearn'd
He may ride forever
neath the streets of DC"

Posted by: alterego3 | August 25, 2010 7:00 PM | Report abuse

They certainly slipped this one in without anyone noticing:
"Friday and Saturday night-owl riders started paying peak fares. "

So are you telling me I now pay peak of peak during rush hour to get to and from work. And I pay peak at night to get to and from bars and drinking. So the real question is, when does a normal person ever actually ever pay the normal fare?

Also not cool metro: This fall Metro also plans to require that SmarTrip users have enough fare to exit the system. The current system allows users to exit even if they don't have enough value stored on the cards for the complete trip.

You won't allow me to add value online or automatically, I cannot take invisible bridges between close Metro stops, and your smart trip readers constantly break...

Posted by: MattyTB | August 25, 2010 7:55 PM | Report abuse

The member's of the Metro Board must be Brain Dead to come up with this idea, If I do not have money to exit, will I get arrested, or Will I have to stay in the station until closing? Do you realise how dumb this sound's?

Posted by: onesugar | August 25, 2010 8:46 PM | Report abuse

Sigh...more money. At least I drive 2 days a week.

Posted by: eabgarnet | August 25, 2010 9:25 PM | Report abuse

"Sounds like I will have to go 100% bike to work."

Posted by: paddyfunk | August 25, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: gjjg4dgd | August 25, 2010 9:47 PM | Report abuse

More reasons to not take metro. For a typical commuter in Maryland, it will cost you now about $14-15 per day, including parking.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | August 25, 2010 9:48 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: gjjg4dgd | August 25, 2010 9:58 PM | Report abuse

Whoever suggested adding an ATM that won't help anyway. They only dispense $20 bills and the exit fare machines don't accept $20 bills. So even if you have cash if you don't have the right kind of cash you're screwed.

Does Metro lose that much money from cards that go negative and never get recharged? I have to imagine not so much so why do this kind of stuff just because you can. Stupid move Metro

Posted by: archers44 | August 25, 2010 10:07 PM | Report abuse

Will this be true for the buses and for the parking lots as well? Currently, you can still board a bus and go negative as long as you have some amount on the card (so for a bus trip that costs $1.50 if I have 50 cents on the card, it still works). Unless they plan to have credit card readers on the buses and at the exits to parking garages, this is a horrible idea. Harassment of bus drivers will increase or WMATA will end up losing money because a lot of bus drivers will just let people ride rather than hold up the bus while people complain/argue with them. Parking and ridership will decrease because no one will want to go back into the station to put enough money on their card to get out.

I notice when my card goes negative. It's not always easy to tell when I have some money on my card if I have enough to get me to where I need to go, especially with the new convoluted fare-structure.

Posted by: UMDTerpsGirl | August 26, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

"Whoever suggested adding an ATM that won't help anyway. They only dispense $20 bills and the exit fare machines don't accept $20 bills. So even if you have cash if you don't have the right kind of cash you're screwed."

They'll install Citibank ATMs, which dispense $20s and $50s, but they'll set them to dispense only $50s. :-)

There are plenty of ATMs in the world that dispense $10s, but from what other folks have said, the Addfare machines only accept $1s and $5s.

Of course, it's easy to avoid the problem: Pay attention to how much is on your card. Yeah, it takes an extra split second, but with the faregates having become slower since the last fare increase, it's easier to note the amount of money as you go through. (I rode the Blue Line downtown last week and the delay in the faregates allowed me to notice that I needed to add some more money to my SmarTrip card.)

Regarding UMDTerpsGirl's comment about the parking garages, they already have a policy that you can't go into the red to exit a car park. You have to have enough money on the SmarTrip card to pay the full amount for parking or the gate won't open. The negative-balance feature only works for buses and the subway. When they first required SmarTrip for parking, they allowed you to go in the red to exit, but then they realized that they were losing money off tourists who wouldn't be back the next day to top up their cards (regular riders would, of course, add more money within a short time), so they changed the rules. A couple of stops apparently have credit card readers at the parking exits, but only a couple.

Posted by: 1995hoo | August 26, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

1995hoo, thanks for the clarification. I don't have a car so I don't park and did not know that.

And yes I agree the simple solution is just paying more attention to the balance on my card. Pretty much I will have to make sure I always have about 5 dollars or so on my card, to make sure I have enough money for both my metro ride and for the bus (because stopping to refill my card could mean waiting 30 mins for the next bus).

I just find it very annoying that WMATA touted the convienence of the SmarTrip card when they first debuted them, including the ability to go negative. This move just follows the poor judegment of WMATA to make us pay more and more for less and less service. To me, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Posted by: UMDTerpsGirl | August 27, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

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