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Metro debates SmarTrip cost

The finance committee of tyson.gif Metro's board of directors today postponed a plan to reduce the price of SmarTrip cards from $5, describing the plan as flawed.

The panel again asked Metro staff to provide more detail on various options for reducing the card price, but several members indicated they would prefer to drop the plan and maintain the status quo.

In heated discussion, board members and staff weighed a desire to cut the card price to save riders money with the possibility that some passengers would exploit the lower price to "game" the system for discount rides.

One proposal would cut the card price to $2.50 on Dec. 19 but require riders to purchase at least $2.50 of stored value on the card. But several board members voiced concerns that would not eliminate the potential problem of users cheating the system.

Metro staff members are concerned that some riders would take advantage of the cheaper SmarTrip cards, which allow customers to exit the system once with a negative balance. Customers could buy cards for $2.50 and use them for more expensive trips.

Metro board of directors agreed this summer to cut the price of the electronic fare cards when members enacted the most expansive fare hike in the system's history to help close a $190 million budget deficit.

-- Ann Scott Tyson

From the Post's archives:
Obstacles embedded in SmarTrip plan

Metro takes hard line on SmarTrip exit fare

By Michael Bolden  | October 14, 2010; 10:12 AM ET
Categories:  Ann Scott Tyson, Metro, MetroAccess, Metrobus  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: All lanes reopen on T.R. Bridge
Next: Metro to overhaul Blue, Orange Lines


I don't make alot of money, but I can afford the $5 for a card. So can anyone. It's a one time fee, don't tinker.

Posted by: jckdoors | October 14, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Dr. Gridlock, can you investigate why Metro wouldn't just buy smart cards from a cheaper vendor?

The proper type (13.56 MHz RFID) is available in the same plastic card format for $0.25, singly sold, and cheaper in bulk. Many companies sell them through Google Shopping, for instance.

Posted by: ChrisCombs | October 14, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

(My comment above pertains to board member Graham's contention that it costs Metro $3.40 per SmarTrip card.)

Posted by: ChrisCombs | October 14, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

For cryin' out loud - can't Metro do anything anymore?

Metro has been abusing its riders for years, with higher fares and deteriorating service. The reduced price on the fare card was one tiny crumb to make the latest fare increase slightly less painful -- and yet Metro has been dragging its feet for months, refusing to make good on that promise.

Maryland already figured out how to sell low-cost transit cards (as reported in the Post - Their card sells for $10 ($2.50 for the card itself, with $7.50 in fare already loaded).

Why doesn't Metro just copy what Maryland is doing? Or if that's too challenging, then just sub-contract the whole thing to Maryland.

The continuing incompetence of the Metro system is just mind-boggling. But it's not likely to change, until they get new completely new management -- including a new Board of Directors.

Posted by: jrmil | October 14, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Last night I was trying to get onto the Yellow Line at Gallery Place after the Caps game. Unfortunately, there are no SmarTrip-only faregates there. One of the faregates was malfunctioning for paper farecard users--the card wouldn't come back out the top slot after being read, so a Metro staffer had to stand there opening the box each time someone used a paper card. What a stupid system.

Posted by: 1995hoo | October 14, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

This is a (expensive and annoying) solution in search of a problem.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | October 14, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

"several board members voiced concerns that would not eliminate the potential problem of users cheating the system"

Dear Metro you cheat your customers each and every day so why are you so concerned that someone will get over on your lousy system.

Posted by: kendra2 | October 14, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Reply to ChrisCombs, the vendor that makes Smartrip cards no longer makes them, so Metro will be changing the cards anyway sometime in the future.

Posted by: SterlingNorth | October 14, 2010 7:15 PM | Report abuse

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