- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Metro plans to eliminate the single-ride paper farecards used for decades in favor of reusable plastic SmarTrip cards as the transit agency moves toward a new electronic payment system.

Officials said they plan to upgrade more than 500 vending machines to distribute the SmarTrip cards instead of the 1970s-era magnetic paper cards, a move expected to result in lower overall expenses for the Metro and its riders.

The announcement came after the Metro Board’s Finance and Administration Committee approved a budget plan for the next fiscal year that will use SmarTrip reserve funds to retrofit the vending machines over a two-year span. The Metro Board is scheduled to discuss the capital budget Thursday.

Metro officials say 90 percent of its rail riders already use SmartTrip cards, which are reusable and can be bought for $10 — a figure that includes $8 in fare value. Paper farecards come with a $1 surcharge per trip.

The agency is ultimately working toward a new electronic system that would expand fare payment options to include credit cards, identification cards or mobile phones.

The upgrades are expected to begin sometime next year, the news release said, but paper farecards will continue to be accepted temporarily to give customers time to adjust to the new system.

• Crystal Hill can be reached at chill@washingtontimes.com.

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