According to the director, office of customer service, Metro is working toward acceptance of more open standard farecards. The current farecards, using Cubic Go-Card technology, are in compliance with some parts of ISO 14443, the standard for contactless ID cards, but are still proprietary. Metro is not able to accept other types of farecards at this time.
The process requires compatibility between open standard farecards and the corresponding readers. Cubic’s Tri-reader (pdf), capable of reading Go-Cards as well as ISO 14443 farecards, is installed in bus fareboxes throughout the region, and Metro is working on installing compatible readers for Metrorail over approximately the next year. Once the card readers and software are upgraded, Metro can start working on investigating whether another farecard could be accepted.
The Director of Customer Service stated that “Metro has the rights and capability to connect readers from sources other than Cubic to our equipment.” I’m assuming that readers from other sources will generally not be compatible with the current Smartrip, based on Cubic technology, so that’s a right that will likely only be exercised once Metro is able to change the farecard standard.
Hopefully, once Metro moves to a more open standard farecard, they will be able to get better service from the vendor, including better programming support with open software standards. Also, competition between card providers might bring down the cost of purchasing a new Smartrip card as well as providing other products and form factors like keychains or paper disposable options.