Maybe SmarTrip Won’t be Discounted, After All


This SmarTrip card is in the red...thanks to a sharpie.

Last week, I posted about having your say regarding Metro’s proposal to no longer allow negative balances on SmarTrip cards. The whole reason Metro considered changing the current system, which allows riders to exit even if they don’t have enough money on their card to cover metro fare was because of a proposal to lower the cost of a SmarTrip card from $5 to $2.50, in order to make the plastic fare card more accessible and affordable. Laudable goal, right?

Well, yes, but officials at Metro then theorized that people could abuse the system by purchasing a card and taking a ride which cost more than $2.50. That’s why they considered eliminating negative balances. What they didn’t consider was how complicated this would all become. For example, there were no plans to change the Exit Fare machines to accept credit cards– they are cash only. That was one of the reasons why negative balances were allowed in the first place; the machines for adding value to SmarTrip cards are beyond the fare gates.

Now Metro is considering scrapping the price cut (Via The Examiner):

Metro officials are rethinking their decision to reduce SmarTrip card prices and to do away with negative card balances.

Carol Dillon Kissal, Metro’s deputy general manager, told the Metro Riders’ Advisory Council that lowering the card price from $5 to $2.50 – a drop the Metro board of directors approved earlier this year – has presented some “tricky issues,” prompting Kissal and her staff to develop new options…

Kissal said updating the existing exit fare machines to work with SmarTrip cards could take until December. That delay, coupled with customer backlash against the proposed changes, has prompted Metro officials to examine different options…

Maybe what Metro should do is figure out other ways to provide lower-income residents with a discounted or free SmarTrip card vs. complicate the entire system because scofflaws might potentially abuse it. I don’t want to deal with carrying cash to top up my SmarTrip card, but I don’t want to limit someone else’s access to safe, effective public transportation, either. Why do those cards cost $5 in the first place? I remember when they debuted, I felt like a chump for shelling out for one, even if my exit from Metro stations was magically faster.

UPDATE: As of today, September 16th, I now know that it costs $3.40 to make a SmarTrip card. I feel slightly less chump-like now.