SmarTrip plans face obstacles
Metro's plan to reduce the price of SmarTrip cards by half has encountered major obstacles -- one being that people could use the cheaper cards to take advantage of the system, and the other that the agency risks running out of the SmarTrip cards altogether, Metro officials said on Thursday.
The revelations at a meeting of a board of directors committee drew exasperation from several board members, who eventually decided to halt the discussion and ask Metro's staff to return at the end of the month with better solutions.
"This is embarrassing," said board member Jim Graham, a Ward 1 D.C. council member. "I think we should move off this agenda item. With every passing minute it looks worse."
Metro had planned to cut the price of SmarTrip cards from $5 to $2.50, to encourage use of the cards at a time when the transit agency is also providing discounts of 20 cents on bus trips and 25 cents on rail trips for those who use the electronic fare cards for their travels..
Then Metro staff grew concerned that some riders would take advantage of the cheaper SmarTrip cards, which allow customers to exit the system once with a negative balance, by buying cards at $2.50 and using them for more expensive trips.
Given that rail trips can cost up to $5.20 and bus trips as much as $6, Metro officials calculated that the lost revenue from customers "gaming the system" could reach as high as $1 million a m onth.
"The more money they could make off it, the more likely they'd be to do it," said Steve Holland, Metro's director of customer service, sales, and fare media services.
Making the problem worse, SmarTrip cards, which have been made by only one company, are no longer going to be manufactured, Metro officials said. Metro has an estimated two-year inventory, but that could rapidly dwindle if customers purchased them in higher numbers.
"You have to watch what you do or you will end up with no cards," board Chairman Peter Benjamin said.
Metro's initial solution was to propose eliminating the negative balance option, forcing customers to add money to the cards at cash-only machines to be able to exit the system. That in turn caused an uproar from riders, who envisioned being trapped in the system without the right change or facing congestion at exit machines.
At today's board meeting, staff discussed several other options -- none of board members perceived as ideal.
"This whole thing is now charging down the line base on an original decision that was not well informed," Benjamin said.
-- Ann Scott Tyson
Posted by: LouLewis | September 16, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ValleyCaps | September 16, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ghokee | September 16, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: BringThePain | September 16, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Jimof1913 | September 16, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ericroks | September 16, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Xlnt | September 16, 2010 6:47 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: RosslynVA | September 16, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: lucl74 | September 16, 2010 8:17 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Razor04 | September 16, 2010 9:37 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: mcrochip | September 17, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: UMDTerpsGirl | September 17, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.