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SmarTrip exit change delayed till Oct.

Metro riders will have to wait until October for cheaper SmarTrip cards.

Metro had previously announced that the price of the cards would drop from $5 to $2.50 on Aug. 29. However, Metro needs more time to make programming changes to add-fare machines inside Metrorail station exit gates, said Metro spokeswoman Angela Gates.

The cheaper SmarTrip cards will coincide with a new rule that, like paper fare card holders, SmartTrip card holders will not be allowed to pass through exit gates with a negative balance. The machines that allow passengers to add fare to paper cards before leaving a station must be reprogrammed to accept the plastic SmarTrip cards as well, Gates said. SmartTrip card holders may now leave a station with a negative balance from one trip but cannot re-enter the rail system without adding more to their plastic cards at add-fare machines outside the gates.

About 75 percent of Metrorail riders and 60 percent of Metrobus riders use SmarTrip cards, Metro said. The card saves rail passengers 25 cents per trip and Metrobus riders 20 cents per trip.

While SmarTrip readers will be added to the exit fare machines, credit card readers will not--and it's unclear how riders not carrying cash whose SmarTrip cards dipped below zero would be able to exit the system.

--Katherine Shaver

By Luke Rosiak  | September 1, 2010; 12:56 PM ET
Categories:  Metro, Transit  | Tags:  SmarTrip  
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Comments

I hope Metro, for the first time in the history of the organization, considers what it users want. If they go ahead with this and make us actually know the exact balance on our cards, they are idiots.

Pretty much every executive @ metro should be fired. We can't automatically renew, we can't add a monthly pass to our smart-trip (paper only). The metro fails and they never alert us. The only thing metro can do on a constant basis is hit people with their buses.

Posted by: Natstural | September 1, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

"While SmarTrip readers will be added to the exit fare machines, credit card readers will not"

---------------

I'm sorry, but Metro is run by morons.

Didn't I read that they are getting ready to change the cards so that they will automatically recharge when you swipe them at the gate (if you have benefits available). In other words, we won't need to use the SmartTrip machines anymore.

So they're adding SmartTrip readers that will be useless in a few months, but aren't adding Credit Card readers that will actually be helpful to people trapped in the system when Metro stops allowing the cards to go negative?!?

Unreal. I think I'm going to find a new way to work. I just can't support this idiocy any longer....

Posted by: ghokee | September 1, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Here's a message I received this week from Metro's deputy general manager and CFO:

This winter, we will be giving customers additional capabilities and online tools for their SmarTrip® accounts, including the ability for customers to link their SmarTrip® card to a credit card, for which they can set an autoload threshold.

The way this works is that when a customer’s SmarTrip® card balance hits this pre-determined low value, a transaction is automatically triggered that will charge their selected credit card a preset amount, which will automatically be loaded onto their SmarTrip® card by touching a gate or vending device.

Posted by: OntheHill | September 1, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

"ghokee," aren't you making an unwarranted assumption that all SmarTrip users are SmartBenefits recipients?

People who do not receive SmartBenefits will still need to add value to their SmarTrip cards via the machines, so the machines will definitely NOT be useless to those of us who fall within that group. I'm sure there are plenty of people who, like me, have SmarTrip cards but do not normally ride the Metrorail. I used to commute via subway and I got my SmarTrip card back in 1999 or 2000 on the first day they were sold to the general public. I liked the idea of being able to use the card to pay for parking at Vienna, which was then my nearest stop. It was easier to use the card than to fumble around for cash. Nowadays, of course, you MUST have a SmarTrip card to pay for parking except at a very few stations, so even someone who might ride the system four times a year is likely to have a SmarTrip card.

Posted by: 1995hoo | September 1, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

for those who complain about metro, you should go to alot other cities around the u.s. were you pay more and get much less. For the area it covers, which only a few cities have larger, you pay a lot less than most cities. Stop complaining.

Posted by: bobby31 | September 1, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

So how much is it going to cost to have all this programming changed? Why fix something that isn't broken???

Posted by: UMDTerpsGirl | September 1, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

for those who complain about metro, you should go to alot other cities around the u.s. were you pay more and get much less. For the area it covers, which only a few cities have larger, you pay a lot less than most cities. Stop complaining.

Posted by: bobby31 | September 1, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse


UMMM, where?? This had to have been posted by a Metro employee. You are kidding me if you think the system doesn't suck

Posted by: m1ke3i6 | September 1, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

bobby31- NYC is cheaper and larger.

Posted by: DCJUSTICE | September 1, 2010 4:00 PM | Report abuse

10 years ago Metro was clean, cheap and efficient. SInce then I see people walking on the metro with food while talking to station managers (no one gets stopped), commuting from the burbs is now about to be cheaper to drive and park than metro and the service is in constant repair. Oh and they are going to nix the yellow line on weekends next summer for good. Ridiculous, poorly managed, and racist.

Posted by: emilymn | September 1, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

This is a waste of time and money. If you go negative exiting a station the first thing you have to do the next time you ride is bring your card current. Do believe that people will stock pile Smart Trip cards at a cost of $2.50 to beat the system. FIX the machines you have which cost me time.

Posted by: pal12345 | September 1, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

@1995hoo - OK, useless was a strong word (although don't assume it's just SmartBenefits, see the post above yours).

Still, why not just add a credit card slot instead of updating the machines so that riders can only add cash.

I'd estimate maybe 40-50% of riders are on SmartBenefits. 25% of riders use paper cards. Some additional percentage will use automatic credit card refills. And some percentage won't carry cash.

Why go through the expense of updating the machines in such a way that they are only useful to a limited number of customers?

Especially if auto-refill is coming, the machines outside the gates will get less use. Just roll one of them at each exit into the station itself.

Move into the 21st century.

Posted by: ghokee | September 1, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

"ghokee," I certainly agree that the Addfare machines ought to have credit card readers. Really stupid not to include them there.

Posted by: 1995hoo | September 1, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Why does the spokespeople for metro always put information out before making sure it is correct?

Like putting the info out through the news stations that there will be no more free rides exiting out of the gates using the smart trip. HELLO!! First of all the freaking add fare machines didn't have smart trip capabilities and second of all the fare amount would put a negative balance on your card so when you added fare it was automatically deducted.

Soo someone please tell me how a person would be getting a free trip? NOT!!

Metro really suck these dayz.

Posted by: msruby36 | September 1, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

"msruby36," the point about the "free ride" is that they're concerned that if they drop the price of the SmarTrip card to $2.50 as they say they will, it would be possible to obtain a SmarTrip card with the minimal fare for the shortest trip on the system (I do not know what that amount is), take a longer ride (say, Metro Center to Franconia-Springfield), exit the system with a negative balance, and then throw away the card, thus effectively getting a reduced-fare ride. It wouldn't be free, of course, but their point is that if you throw away the card, the negative balance never gets paid off.

Seems to me to be more trouble than it's worth for a commuter to try to pull a stunt like that, but apparently when they allowed you to go into the red to pay for parking they found that people were indeed abusing the system. That's why you cannot exit a Metro car park unless your SmarTrip card has the full amount of the parking fee. It seems to me that the people most likely to benefit from gaming the system with the negative balance would be tourists where one family member needs enough on the card to pay for parking and the rest of them can throw their cards away, but we all know that there are commuters who will go to all sorts of trouble to save a few cents here and there, even when the value of the wasted time involved in buying all those SmarTrip cards would seem to be worth more than the dollar you might save on your subway fare.

Posted by: 1995hoo | September 2, 2010 7:38 AM | Report abuse

why don't they let people go negative up to $2.50? is that too obvious?

Posted by: jiji1 | September 2, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

METRO continues to mismanage basic operations while increasing fares. The fact that SmarTrip holders may no longer have a negative balance upon exit, but a lack of the rider's ability to utilize a credit/debit card to pay these fares is the latest example. METRO receives an A+ in fare/cost increases to the customer, but an F- in customer service & safety.

Posted by: rlewisoliver | September 2, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Everything about this is astounding.

1) Why did they not simply leave the price of a card at $5? 75% of metro users already have one, do they really think $2.50 is going to put many more people over the edge? Or, possibly, the remaining 25% are less frequent users and tourists who couldn't care about the cost one way or the other - they just buy a farecard when they use metro.

2) Why on earth, if they felt this was necessary, didn't they wait until they added credit card linking?

3) Why on earth would they allow you to add fare with cash only? Far more people are likely to be without cash than without a credit card.

There is not a single thing about this whole debacle that makes any sense. This is just bad, bad, bad management. Someone should be fired, stat.

Posted by: jamietre | September 2, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

As another person suggested, why not compromise and allow the cards to go negative up to $2.50? That eliminates the incentive to game the system, as you wouldn't save anything by going negative equal to or less than the cost of the card. I think few people would enter the system knowingly to take a long trip with a SmarTrip that's $2.50 or more short. But lets face it, there have been many times where I've entered with $1.70 and taken a trip that costs $1.75. It happens frequently to me because I don't commute on Metro, so most times I'm taking a trip to a new location and have no idea what the fare is. Nor do I care....a few nickles and dimes in fare value won't cause me to change my travel plans, and i will simply add money to my card and re-fill it over time when it gets low.

Don't forget that not only will add-fare machines not accept credit cards, they also won't accept bills other than singles and $5 bills. So you could have cash in a wad of $20 bills that you just got from an ATM, and still find yourself stuck and at the mercy of the station "agent".

Posted by: thetan | September 2, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

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