“Pay for Metro with your smartphone or watch? Testing starts soon.” 10 Metro Test Stations including Gallery Place and Navy Yard beginning in Jan.

Photo by PoPville flickr user nevermindtheend


“Metro is planning a pilot program to test new fare technology and fare gates to allow riders to pay for their trip in new ways, including next-generation smartphones, NFC-enabled watch, contactless credit and debit cards, Federal ID cards and more.

On Thursday, Metro will announce a pilot program to test the new technology at 10 Metrorail stations, six Metrobus routes and two parking facilities, beginning in January.

The 10 Metrorail stations selected for the pilot are: Shady Grove, Eisenhower Avenue, Bethesda, Pentagon City, Pentagon, Ballston, Gallery Place (7th & F), Farragut West, Navy Yard and Suitland. In addition, parking facilities at Shady Grove and Suitland will be included in the pilot.

The six Metrobus routes selected for the pilot are: 37 (Wisconsin Ave Limited), X9 (Benning Rd-H St Limited), 39 (Pennsylvania Ave Limited), K9 (New Hampshire Ave Limited), J4 (College Park-Bethesda Limited), and REX (Richmond Highway Express).

Installation of new fare gates, bus and parking payment targets for the pilot will begin in October. Metro will begin recruiting customers to participate in the pilot within a matter of weeks.

The new fare system will allow riders to pay for their trip using a variety of new methods, without the need to convert U.S. currency to Metro fare value. For example, visitors to the region will be able to enter and exit the rail system and pay for their trip using many types of NFC-equipped or contactless credit or debit cards and mobile devices, all without stopping at a fare machine or purchasing a SmarTrip card. Federal workers eventually will be able to use their workplace ID card.

If the pilot is successful, Metro plans to replace the now decades-old fare gates and vending machines at station entrances across the system, and add new payment targets onboard buses and at parking facilities, starting in 2017. The replacement of outmoded technology is expected to result in faster, more reliable fare payment for thousands of riders each day as they travel through Metro’s rail, bus and parking systems.

Design, development and deployment of this new system will be a multi-year initiative. SmarTrip cards will continue to be accepted for the foreseeable future.”

15 Comment

  • I’d rather WMATA fix existing issues first rather than creating potentially new ones.

    • Can they make it so I can fix an escalator with my phone?

    • The current faregate technology in use is really outdated and needs to be fixed. If WMATA doesn’t do that now, it will cause larger issues down the road – you’ll start getting that dreaded “see station manager” display on the faregate much more often.

      Basically, if they don’t do this now, we’ll get to a point in the not so distant future where customers won’t be able to enter the stations.

  • YESSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!…though I also agree with Anonymous 3:01

  • Agree with other posters, I’d rather they fix existing issues first.

    I can’t say I’ll ever use smartphone payment for this; I’d be too worried about dropping and breaking my phone while hurrying to try to get to work in the morning.

  • It’s funny that Medical center (all feds all the time) isn’t included.

  • I would much prefer for them to fix existing issues first — I don’t see any significant problems with the current payment/card-reading system.

  • Escalators first! This unnecessary stuff later!

  • tonyr

    So would one have to both enter AND exit at one of the ten metro stations? What happens if you can’t remember whether or not your exit station has this feature?

  • What better way to show off your beautiful iPhone 5S to potential phone thieves! Seriously though, badges seem like a good solution. It would be easier than using your phone (no need to pull up some app…i can see this being a nightmare as people rush from the trains to the gates with heads locked onto their phones) and more durable than SmarTrip (I hate having to register a new card with work every year or so). Another idea would be to issue key fobs.

  • justinbc

    For people commenting about “fixing existing issues” such as escalators, that comes from a different funding pool. Doing this has no effect on their work to fix the tracks, escalators, or anything else that falls under maintenance. Think about the organization you work for…do they only do one specific task, or are there multiple branches all tackling different objectives? WMATA is no different.

    • Then they need to reallocate how much $$ goes to which funding pool.
      This idea looks to me like a boondoggle for whichever company gets the contract to design/implement it.

  • Agreeing with all the statements above, also… With all of the “smartphone” thefts and such that has been happening on metro, and in metro stations, why would they encourage people to have more reasons to take out their smartphones??

  • I’ve been thinking about this and to me, the “Fix existing issues first” is like advising someone not to take guitar lessons until they’ve finished losing weight.
    a) they’re kind of unrelated, doing one doesn’t necessarily take away from the other.
    b) why hold off on something potentially beneficial if you’re ready to try? I’m no MBA but I doubt most businesses put good ideas back on the shelf until everything else is running perfectly.
    c) when does “fixing existing issues” really end? Do people really think there’s going to be a time when every escalator and elevator works all the time and no trains ever break down or have door problems? I don’t. Sure you can define “fixed”, but it’s an arbitrary benchmark.
    If the “fix existing issues” argument had been applied in the past we probably wouldn’t even have Smartrip cards yet. If it’s applied now, in five years when people are paying for everything else with a tap of a credit card or smartphone, people will be complaining about how Metro is so far behind the times! (FWIW I personally don’t give a crap about paying with anything but Smartrip and probably won’t.)

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