Metro will reduce the price of new SmarTrip cards to $2, beginning Oct. 1, General Manager and CEO Richard Sarles announced July 25.
Today, SmarTrip cards cost $5 to purchase, but riders can get a $3 rebate when they register the card online. Cards purchased at Metrorail station dispensers cost $10 – $5 for the card plus $5 in fare value.
Starting Oct. 1, the rebate program will be discontinued, and riders will be able to purchase a SmarTrip card for $2 at any Metro Sales Office or commuter store. At Metrorail station dispensers and participating CVS stores, $10 will buy a card preloaded with $8 in fare value.
“The new lower price makes the cost of buying a SmarTrip card equivalent to the $2 surcharge paid by anyone who takes a roundtrip using a paper farecard,” Sarles said. “We are transitioning away from paper farecards as we prepare to introduce a new fare system, and I would encourage everyone to make the switch to the faster, more convenient and environmentally friendly SmarTrip card.”
Since July 2012, Metro has charged a $1 surcharge for each trip taken with a paper farecard as a way of encouraging riders to switch to SmarTrip. Today, SmarTrip is used for more than 90 percent of bus trips and more than 85 percent of rail trips.
Metro is steadily transitioning away from the use of 1970’s-era magnetic paper farecard technology. The machinery necessary to process paper farecards is outmoded and includes an intricate system of rollers, printers, sensors, and wiring that is difficult and time consuming to maintain when compared to the contactless SmarTrip technology.
Later this year, Metro expects to award a contract for a new fare payment system – in addition to SmarTrip – that will allow riders to pay for their trip by tapping their next-generation mobile phone, credit card or debit card at the fare gate.
Sarles also encouraged riders to sign up for SmarTrip Auto Reload.
“This not only saves the inconvenience of standing in line, but will help riders manage the changes coming to our exit fare policy,” Sarles said. “Soon, all cards that have a negative balance greater than $1.50 will be required to add fare at the exit machines before passing through the fare gates. SmarTrip Auto Reload will ensure that cards retain a nominal balance and remove the need to stop.”