According to the Director of Customer Service for WMATA, the direct cost for a Smartrip card is $3.50 in bulk from its vendor, Giesecke and Devrient (PDF on the “GO CARD”, the specific design used for Smartrip). According to WMATA, the cards originally cost just under $10.00 each but with larger volume purchases, the costs have fallen. The cards are not usable as delivered and must be initialized. It’s not clear whether WMATA has to do those manually or whether they own one of the machines sold or leased by the Smartrip card designer, Cubic Transportation Systems.
Should the cost of a Smartrip card have fallen along with WMATA’s costs? What do you think? WMATA has to pay staff to order new cards, process them, and distribute them. They have to pay staff and a contractor to develop Smartrip improvements as well as manage the existing Smartrip program. They have to maintain thousands of individual card readers.
On the other hand, WMATA used to sell you a card for $5 that cost them almost $10, and they’re still willing to give you magnetic stripe cards which are not as reusable for no additional cost, and there are certainly costs associated with the magnetic strip cards. Now that WMATA is trying to get people away from paper transfers by requiring Smartrip, I think it’s time that the price of a card come down.
Here’s the information about Smartrip from the Director of Customer Service:
The policy established by Metro’s Board of Directors is to sell SmarTrip® cards for $5.00. This policy has been in place since the program was launched in 1999. At that time, the cost of each card was just under $10.00. Over time and with larger volume purchases, the charge per unit has fallen to $3.50 per card. When we receive the cards, we must initialize them because they are not usable as delivered.
Again, thanks to WMATA’s Director of Customer Service for the answer.