The cost of a new Metro SmarTrip card will drop to $2 on Oct. 1, making the reusable, reloadable, more convenient fare payment option available to even more people.
Riders purchasing a SmarTrip card at a Metrorail station vending machine or CVS store will still pay $10, but the card will come loaded with $8 in value rather than $5 today. Riders will be able purchase a card for $2 with no pre-loaded value at any Metro sales office or commuter store and selected Giant and Safeway stores.
To facilitate the lower price, effective Oct. 1, riders will no longer be able to exit the Metrorail system with a negative balance of $1.50 or more. Anyone whose SmarTrip balance is lower than negative $1.50 will be directed to the Exitfare machines inside the station to add more value to the card. Exitfare machines accept cash-only.
Metro has upgraded Exitfare machines at all stations to allow for SmarTrip transactions.
In advance of this change, Metro is encouraging all SmarTrip users to sign up for auto reload, the "set it and forget it" feature that automatically adds value to the card whenever the balance drops below $10.
Riders must have a balance of at least $1.20 to enter the Metrorail system.
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 in 2013, 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.