>I spoke with WMATA earlier this year and earlier today about passes and Smartrip. I have a call in to discuss more details, but here’s what I’ve found out so far:
WMATA is working on integrating passes into Smartrip. You would be able to load passes into your Smartrip account, as well as maintain an account balance for any trips that you don’t have passes for.
They are working on automatic renewal of passes under a subscription system, as well as automatically recharging your card when it gets below a certain amount, or when you choose to load more funds online or at local establishments (he mentioned Giant grocery stores).
We specifically discussed the short rail pass, which is good for trips under a certain dollar value. He stated that the desired function would be for the pass to work automatically, with any overage automatically deducted from your cash value “purse”. This is exactly what I would like to do, as it would pay for my commute, while allowing me to do any non-commute travel for free. I’m sure there are many people for whom this pass already makes sense. However, the logistics of using the short rail pass are pretty terrible: purchase paper farecards, remember to bring any extra amount (in my case, 60 cents) you’ll need, and load the extra amount at the addfare machine at the end of each of your trips. Plus, the paper farecard can’t carry any cash value for the bus.
All of these options for passes on Smartrip would be under the current approved fare structure, so no new discounts, changes in prices or anything are being anticipated, only integration with Smartrip.
The timeframe for this is “written in pencil”, which he clarified as meaning subject to change at any time. The timeframe currently is sometime in 2009.
I’ll keep you all posted with any further developments.
Thanks to Richard S. of WMATA’s Smartrip Marketing department for the information and for taking the time to return my calls.