SmarTrip Shake-Up? - NBC4 Washington

SmarTrip Shake-Up?

Metro may put brakes on price reduction

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    Just when it seemed like Metro riders might actually get a break, the transit system’s board is rethinking one of its user-friendly updates.

    Out of all the fare hikes and new peak-of-the-peak charges, a reduction in the price of SmarTrip cards was the rare bright spot for many riders. But according to the Washington Examiner, technical issues and financial worries have led Metro to discuss new changes to the SmarTrip system.

    Earlier this year the Metro board approved the price reduction and as of August 29, SmarTrip cards cost only $2.50 rather than $5. But Metro officials began to worry the new price would be taken advantage of. Riders could simply buy the card for $2.50, take a trip that was more expensive than the card, and then toss it. Because of that, Metro no longer allows negative balances on the cards.

    Metro Project Manager Steve Hollandtold the Examiner that had they left the negative balances in place combined with the price reduction, Metro could lose up to $1 million a month in revenue.

    But there are other issues with the new rule against negative balances.

    First, customers aren’t happy.

    “The feedback I’ve received from people when they found out they would no longer be able to go negative [on their SmarTrip cards] was very negative,” Riders’ Advisory Council member Carl Seiptold the Examiner.

    Second, exit fare machines at all of the stations would need to be updated in order to allow customers to add money to their cards. That process could take until December.

    The financial issues and delay in updating machines has led the board to develop seven more options for the card. Things like requiring a minimum balance on the card before entering the system, rewarding cardholders with a $2.50 rebate after they take two one-way trips and scrapping the $2.50 price drop are all included.

    The Metro Board is expected re-examine the SmarTrip card decision and discuss the new options at its September 30 meeting.