Bus Rider Gets Farebox Lesson
I needed the lesson, because in all my years of paying for fares with a SmarTrip card, I've never added to its value while standing at a bus farebox. I find it much easier to do that in rail stations, where I can walk up to a big vending machine away from the fare gates.
But I've been hearing from people who ride but buses exclusively, and wouldn't have any reason to go to a Metrorail station. Metro is planning to offer more places where people can add value on SmarTrip cards, but it's a big region. So most people would wind up using the add value feature on the buses' fareboxes.
This is getting to be a big deal, because on Jan. 4, riders are going to have another very strong incentive to pay with SmarTrip cards. That's when Metro will eliminate paper transfers. People who don't use SmarTrip or flash passes will wind up paying two full fares if they transfer. [Here's a link to Lena Sun's story in Friday's Post.]
Also, Metro is going to deliver on its long-standing promise of providing bus to rail transfers. But again, if you want that discount, which will be 50 cents, you'll need to use a SmarTrip card.
The cards cost $5 to buy, and then you can add up to $300 in value. With the new incentives, there will be many more people using the cards, and trying to add value as they board buses.
Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein has been trying to ease my concerns about that. "Our customers are smart," she reminds me. They got used to it on Metrorail and they'll get used to it on Metrobus. It doesn't take any more time to add value than to feed $1.35 in cash into the farebox. There may be some confusion the first week, but people will quickly get used to it.
And in fact, as she and her Metro colleagues demonstrated to me this morning, it's pretty simple: Prese the Add Value button, touch the SmarTrip card to the pad, feed in the money you want to add, touch the card again to complete the transaction, then touch it one more time to pay the fare for this bus trip.
Plus, as Farbstein noted, you'll be a foot away from a bus driver, who can coach you through the steps.
Here are my lingering concerns:
-- Some drivers will be patient coaches. Others, not so much.
-- This isn't the same as for rail riders. If it were the same, rail riders would be stopping to add fare at the fare gates.
-- Bus riders probably will add enough fare value to get them through the week, and that will smooth many boardings. Let's hope they don't all pick the same time -- Monday morning, for example -- to add value for the week.
-- Yes, riders are smart. My Dad is smart, too, but he's 84 and has two hearing aids. If I were you, I wouldn't want him standing at the front of the boarding line to add value.
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