- The Washington Times - Monday, July 3, 2006


Metro intends to duplicate the success of EZ Pass toll lanes by creating “express lanes” at toll gates for passengers who use SmarTrip — the microchip-embedded cards used to pay for bus and rail fares and parking.

The Metro board will vote Thursday on a pilot project to dedicate some toll gates at busy stations to SmarTrip users.

SmarTrip cards allow users to move through the gates 45 percent faster than passengers who use paper fare cards, transit system officials said.

Fare cards, which must be inserted in the gates and removed, often get crumpled or demagnetized, preventing the gates from opening.

Regular commuters complain that tourists and others who have problems with fare cards cause too many delays.

“This goes to eliminating frustration, especially if there’s someone ahead of you with a crumpled fare card spitting back out at him and there’s a line,” said Dave Couch, director of Metro’s infrastructure renewal program.

The proposed pilot project would dedicate some fare gates to SmarTrip users at the Anacostia, New Carrollton and Vienna/Fairfax-GMU stations.

The stations all have high ridership, with 80 percent using SmarTrip, Metro officials said.

They also each have 10 fare gates, enough to allow several to become “express lanes.”

The “express lanes” would be designated by overhead signs and graphics on the gates. If the program is successful, Metro could expand it to other stations with enough gates, Mr. Couch said.

The Metro board of directors also will vote Thursday on a plan that would create an express bus route on the busy Georgia Avenue corridor between Silver Spring and downtown Washington.

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