“Beginning July 1, customers using paper farecards will be charged an additional $1 per trip.”

Photo by PoPville flickr user Mr. T in DC


Metro today announced that it is increasing the amount of fare value that can be transferred from a paper farecard to SmarTrip® to encourage customers to transition to SmarTrip® cards in advance of July 1 fare changes. Beginning July 1, customers using paper farecards will be charged an additional $1 per trip. Customers can avoid the surcharge by using a SmarTrip® card instead.

Starting today, customers can transfer up to $20 from a paper farecard to their SmarTrip® card at any Fare & Passes vending machine at their Metrorail station. Previously, the maximum allowable transfer was $7.

SmarTrip® cards cost $5, and can be purchased in advance at selected stations, CVS, Giant Food, Metro Sales offices, regional transit stores or on the web at smartrip.com. Metro will install SmarTrip® card vending machines in all rail stations by September. The installation process has already begun, and the top 10 stations where paper farecards are sold, including Foggy Bottom, Union Station, Smithsonian and Rosslyn will have SmarTrip® dispensers by July 1.

83 Comment

  • So this is a big deal. It’s a transfer of funds from tourists to WMATA and if this improves services, then I guess I support it. But who knows.

  • I support it as a surcharge for tourists who block the turnstiles with the apparently baffling paper cards during my commute.

  • $1 per one-way trip? Seriously? That’s kind of jerk move, WMATA. I guess this’ll be the fire under my butt that I need to have an extra “out-of-town guest” SmarTrip handy.

  • You think this move will improve services? It’s a jerk move, as Squish noted. Hardly improving services. There are more on point ways to improve service.

  • If they’re trying to encourage more SmartTrip use, why do some stations sometimes have all but one turnstyle marked “No SmartTrip”?

  • Because forgetting my smartrip in yesterday’s pocket wasn’t annoying enough already…

  • novadancer

    I have no problem with this. When I go to London I use my oyster card which cost 5 pounds. Basically the same thing as a smart trip card. If it encourages the tourists to buy that rather than use the paper farecards, then I am all for it.

    • The difference is that that 5 pounds is a deposit on the oyster card. If you want your money back, you can hand in the oyster card at the end of your stay and get your deposit back. I don’t think that 1 dollar surcharge is a deposit that will be refunded if you return it to metro.

      • No, the difference would be that you don’t get your $5 back for the purchase of a metro card when you turn it back in. At least I don’t think you do. Still not a problem in my book — reduces waste and streamlines operations for WMATA to get everyone on Smart Trip. It makes a lot of sense.

      • novadancer

        i was comparing the oyster to the smart trip. While technically you can turn in the oyster I still have it (plus a 2nd when I left the first one at home)…

        • Fine. If you return the smart trip card, do you get your 5 dollars back? The point is the same, with the oyster, you have that option. You’re not buying it outright unless you choose to keep it.

      • Well since Smartrips let you go into the negative for 1 trip, if you let it go negative for your last trip before you leave the city you are essentially getting refunded the cost of that trip.

        If you’re coming from Vienna at rush hour that’s your $5 right there.

  • I’ve avoided SmarTrip til now, mostly because registering a SmarTrip card would require giving my personal info to WMATA. They can’t even run the trains, and don’t trust them to do anything else right.

    I see no reason why the agency should force the transition to SmarTrip.

    • It’s cheaper for WMATA and creates much less waste. It actually makes sense. It’s the same idea as getting bank statements paperless with the exception that the bank usually gives you a break on fee or something of the sort, whereas WMATA is going to penalize you for using the more costly option of paper cards.

    • So don’t register it. It’s not mandatory.

    • WMATA is part of the international communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids!

  • Emmaleigh504

    I thought they were low on SmartTrip cards because the vendor didn’t make them anymore.

    Why do they care which card people use? Are the paper fare cards more expensive for metro?

    If they really wanted more people to use SmartTrip cards they would make them less expensive and more durable.

    • It’s not just about the lower cost and efficiency of the SmarTrip card. This is a way for WMATA to implement some price discrimination and charge tourist more. Tourist will likely grumble, but pay the additional charge. Objectively, this is a smart move. But $1 per ride is still a jerk move.

      • I really don’t think so. From a management perspective, having everyone use one “currency” is much more efficient. Plus it cuts down significantly on paper waste.

      • Unless the tourist is here for just one day, maybe two, it makes sense to get a SmarTrip card. Three round trips, you’re better off not using paper cards.

    • They’re as durable as any credit card. I bought a SmarTrip card the day they came out (what was it ten years ago?) and it still works great and I’ve only had a few problems with the gates not reading it correctly.

      • Yes, I’ve found them pretty durable. I’ve only had two since they were first introduced and I wouldn’t have needed the second except that my wallet was stolen with the first card in it.

      • They are not durable in cold weather (I don’t know if credit cards are), I’ve had 2 snap while boarding a bus in the winter. The drivers both times were nice saying, it happens all the time, and let me on for free.

        • How do you snap it?! What are you doing to it that you could snap it in half… you don’t even need to ever take it out of your wallet/holder/etc. You don’t need to run it through anything you just touch it to the plate…

          • Maybe you’ve just been lucky, because it does happen all the time. I’ve had two SmarTrip cards snap in two while they were still in my wallet. They aren’t as flexible as credit cards. If you bend it, it will snap in half.

      • they are absolutely not as durable as a credit card. not at all. i have never snapped or cracked a credit card. i have cracked about 5 smart trip cards, rendering them useless.

    • @emmaleigh504 I think that smart trip cards are mighty durable. I’ve had the same one for 12 years and it still works just fine.

      • I’m sorry it was 11 years ago — the silver one they sold in 2001 for the 25 year commemoration.

        I suppose the tourists will have a beautiful souvenir of their amazing Metro experience that they can put into their scrapbook. :-\

        • That’s incredible. The card I bought when I moved here in 2005 started dying in 2008, and I wasn’t even using it that often.

    • “Are the paper fare cards more expensive for metro?”

      Um… yes. Wait… was that a serious question? Because, it doesn’t make sense how you could not figure that out.

      And they are durable… I have had mine for a year… and it still works perfectly, no cracks, not even a smudge…

  • All your fares are belong to us!

  • I’m confused about the farecard to smarttrip transfer limit. What’s the point?

  • Every day I see tourists huddled around fare machines trying to figure out how much money they need to put on their card to get from Point A to Point B. The whole rush hour surcharge nonsense certainly doesn’t help that. Now we are going to slap them with another $2 for a round-trip ride? I guess they will have to line up at the Exitfare machine from now on.

    Also…bring back SmarTrip express lanes!

  • $1 per TRIP?!?! Seriously?! I’d be fine with it SmartTrips were cheaper or had most of the cost loaded onto the card ($5 cost with $4 dollars loaded on the card, something like that), but a 50% surcharge is a little ridiculous. I also don’t understand why they don’t sell the cards at metro stations like they do in London. Would it really be the end of the world if we gave station managers something to do in between naps?

    • It’s right there in the story at the top:

      “Metro will install SmarTrip® card vending machines in all rail stations by September. The installation process has already begun, and the top 10 stations where paper farecards are sold, including Foggy Bottom, Union Station, Smithsonian and Rosslyn will have SmarTrip® dispensers by July 1.”

      • K, well, I feel dumb. I think I was too appalled at the proposition to read thoroughly. I stand by the rest of my comment…I think.

  • This is ridiculous. Absolutely utterly ridiculous.

    WMATA is running out of smarttrip cards – the supplier went out of business.

    Will there also be a 1$ increase on bus trips that use cash – or only on metro?

  • DC One cards have SmartTrip in them and are free for DC residents… one way to save $5

    • What is this “D.C. OneCard”? I’ve been living in D.C. for more than 10 years and am not familiar with it.

        • This is certainly a well-kept secret. (Well, maybe not if you have school-age kids or frequently use D.C. recreation facilities, but otherwise…)

          How long has this thing been around?? I waited as long as I could to put off buying a SmarTrip card (i.e., until I started commuting by Metrorail in 2008), and I definitely wouldn’t have bought one if I’d known that that there are SmarTrip-enabled D.C. OneCards and that they’re free.

          • Just curious, why did you wait as long as possible before getting a SmartTrip card? I have a friend who did the same and I just didn’t get it. I bought one as soon as they were available.

          • Because I was commuting (from the District to the suburbs) by car, and within the city I was using Metrobus much more often than Metrorail.

            I think at that time it didn’t cost any more to use cash, and I resented Metro’s wanting to charge me $5 for something I was able to get for a 3-pound deposit in London.

    • what what what?!? Tell me more.

  • Not at all in support of this. Terrible move to screw over the tourists who flood our economy with money.
    A family of four wants to take a trip to the zoo? Dad better be ready to dish out over 25$ for the round trip, sit in a hot crowded metro station for probably 20+ minutes for a train and drag his children up a broken escalator all while drawing the ire of the locals. Might as well take a cab! At least the drivers will only take them in a few concentric circles to rack up the fare.
    Great summer for tourists: constant marathons blocking the sights, broken/overcharging metro rail, national mall under construction… good times!

    • Newsflash: Having children is expensive. Want the city to bear the burden of carting your snowflakes? Then pay up. And yes, tourists flood our economy with money, but they also flood and burden our infrastructure as well, infrastructure that requires money to maintain.

      • While I agree it’s not the city’s burden to bear the cost of trucking the Johnson Family of Sioux Falls, South Dakota around town, their presence in the city is certainly not the straw that breaks our infrastructures back. That more likely falls on the 800,000 daily metro commuters during the work week. Or the countless 5K, 10K, 10-milers, half marathons, marathons and bike races every weekend eating up resources.

    • On one hand, a cab is fine – that money also goes into the city economy. But, cab or Metro, the vast majority of the attractions your example tourist family is coming to see do not charge admission fees. Even with the $1 per trip Farecard surcharge DC will still be a family-friendly place to visit. And really – if this family plans to take three Metro round trips, it will be worth it for them to buy Smartripcards and avoid the surcharge completely.

    • $25 to entertain a whole family on vacation for the day sounds like a pretty darn sweet deal.

  • Metro – making driving seem like a better option every day.
    Or, “making tourists want to take cabs”

    For a couple, it is seriously easier to drive/taxi anymore than take the metro.

  • I might not cringe as much at all these money-making tactics by metro if I were convinced (which I’m not) that they knew how to budget and we were actually in a budget deficit. Hard for me to believe when the pockets of the execs keep getting deeper but heavier, yet, service remains hit-and-miss.

  • Wow, forget the nickel and dime scam, go straight for the jugular.

  • Kyle B 27

    $1 per trip is WAY too much. $0.50 is a bit more reasonable.

    They absolutely cannot justifiy this if SmarTrip cards are not sold at the entrance to EVERY station.

    • They’re WMATA, they can do whatever they want. Reminds me of the old SNL phone company commercial with Lily Tomlin.

      • Kyle B 27

        haha a classic! you’re right in that they can do what they want, but it’s impossible to justify a massive price increase and only selling smarTrip cards in locations that are difficult for tourists to locate.

    • It’s right there in the story at the top:

      “Metro will install SmarTrip® card vending machines in all rail stations by September. The installation process has already begun, and the top 10 stations where paper farecards are sold, including Foggy Bottom, Union Station, Smithsonian and Rosslyn will have SmarTrip® dispensers by July 1.”

  • Every major city squeezes visitors, usually with taxes on hotels, rental cars, etc. This is no different. At least I can have some silent satisfaction when the masses of country folk make summer hell in DC.

  • I am fine with this, provided there are SmartTrip dispensers at every station. Starting this fare hike before there are dispensers everywhere is BULLSH*T.

  • So they finally have provided a benefit for using Smart Trip cards? Whats next? Monthly fare plans???

  • This is simply going to push more people to drive. Obviously tourists aren’t going to be pushed into buying a smarttrip card and Ma and Pa Jones and their two kids from Gooseneck Ohio aren’t going to pay ~30 bucks a day to endure 20 + minute headways and be crammed into metro cars. No, they will just circle the block a few times and risk a parking ticket, that they won’t have to pay anyway because DC doesn’t have reciprocity with any other state dmv and they won’t be forced to.

    Metro…reminding me every day why I gave you up a couple years ago and drive in comfort whereever I go.

  • This does seem like kind of a jerk move to me, especially given that SmarTrip vending machines won’t be available in all stations until September.

    Metro’s history with SmarTrip doesn’t stack up well against (for example) London’s OysterCard. As Novadancer was mentioning, the amount that you pay to get an OysterCard (is it now 5 pounds? When I bought mine, it was 3…) is a _deposit_, and you can get it back if you turn your card in.

    For tourists who buy a SmarTrip card and are only in D.C. for a week, they’ll come out ahead vis-à-vis paying a $1 surcharge for every trip… but they’ll still be paying $5 for a card that they might never use again, with no way to get that $5 back.

    OysterCards in London aren’t sold at vending machines; they’re sold only at staffed ticket windows. However, unlike Metro, which has “station managers” sitting in kiosks usually not visibly doing anything, the Tube staff in London actually interact with the public. (And are usually very nice!) At some further-flung and lesser-used Tube stations, the ticket window might not be staffed late at night, but the rest of the time — or at Heathrow any time when the Tube is running — a first-time visitor would have no problem purchasing an OysterCard.

    It’s all very well and good that Metro is planning to put the SmarTrip vending machines by July 1 in the top 10 stations that sell paper farecards. However, I feel sorry for the tourist family that drives from their motel to, say, College Park and finds out that they can’t buy a SmarTrip card there.

    • They can get a decent amount of the money back by going negative on the metro ride out of town.

      • Hmm, good point… but they probably don’t know they can go negative.

        • I don’t think you can go negative on paper cards anymore. I don’t ride the metro often anymore but sometimes after visitors are here, they hand over their leftover fare cards with a few cents on them (not a full ride). I can’t remember if they no longer let you enter the turnstile or if they don’t let you out with a fare card with less than the necessary fare. I think it’s no longer possible to do this, at least with paper cards.

          • I think Andy2 meant going negative on a SmarTrip card.

          • In case he wasn’t, people should no longer think it can be done with regular cards because I think at one time you could go negative on a paper card. Not positive about that but I thought so.

  • I’m okay with this – as it adds revenue.
    What would also make exit/entrance a lot easier is to simplify the metor system into zones. travel in betwen 1 zone $1.75, between 2 $2, between 3 $3, between 4 $4 and between 5 $5.
    With fares ranging from $1.95 – $5 it doesn’t raise the highest fare and gives releif to folks that have to endure the greatest amount of pain per mile traveled (in addition to giving tourists traveling between downtown stations).

  • It’s interesting that you picture the smartcard along with NYC’s metrocard and Boston’s Charlie card. In Boston they charge 50 cents more per trip for riders using a paper charlie ticket than a plastic Charlie card, but what’s really amazing is that the charlie card is Free! you can pick one up in many central stations and add fare at the machine, no surcharge or registering necessary. And the fare (1.75) is per ride, no matter how far you travel. They don’t have the tourist congestion we have in DC during the summer though, many of the older stations don’t even have escalators just stairs. I’m all in favor of gouging tourists to help the budget, but something’s seriously wrong with Metro if they have to charge $5 for a metrocard and have increased fares across the board and charge $1 more for paper tickets and still unable keep up with service, escalator repairs etc.

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