I wrote last year about how Metro is working on upgrades to the Smartrip program so you’ll be able to do things like go online to check your recent trips, recharge your Smartrip card online or automatically by credit card, or use your Smartrip card as an unlimited use pass.
The Metro board recently approved contracting to provide those online services, which it says will reduce the number of service calls that currently have to be staffed by the Regional Customer Service Center. The schedule is a slight slip due to contract negotiations, but it still involves significant upgrades during the coming year.
By September 2009, the Smartrip software will be upgraded to allow unlimited passes. That is, the cards and system will be capable of having passes, but the roll out of actual passes will be an ongoing process after that. Metro is going to start with the unlimited weekly bus pass since that one is the most popular. It’s also the best deal, offering unlimited $1.25 bus rides for only $11 per week. I’ve put in a question to see if these can be automatically renewed from stored value on the card or by using the “autoload” feature.
By December 2009, you’ll be able to call Smartrip customer service to set up automatic replenishment of your Smartrip card via a credit card (this is called “autoload”). The same feature will be available by Internet in early 2010. Metro is working to beat these target dates so if they can get it out sooner, they will.
Later this year, they will be increasing the number of stand-alone retail Smartrip terminals from 127 installed today to 220.
The combination of allowing the bus flash pass on Smartrip, autoload, and more retail Smartrip terminals reduce the disincentive for bus riders to go get a Smartrip card. Metro is working to make it easier to load fare, to use the popular bus pass, provides free transfers for three hours, and a ten cent discount for single rides.
What are the final low hanging fruit to convince bus riders to use Smartrip? Should Metro get more of the card-by-mail brochures on buses? Is it even possible to convince the people still paying with cash to get a Smartrip, or has Metro done everything it reasonably can?