Metro installs smart faregates at 10 stations

WASHINGTON — Metro has taken the first step toward a vision where customers can pay to ride trains or buses with a smartphone or credit card, instead of a SmarTrip.

Metro installed the first new test faregate at Gallery Place-Chinatown ahead of a pilot program beginning in January. Ten stations and six bus lines will be equipped with the new faregates that allow customers to pay with Google Wallet, Apple Pay, or credit cards with near-field communication (NFC) chips.

“If you can envision a computer you had 20 or 30 years ago, that’s the type of faregate we’ve been maintaining since that time. But it’s time to move to the next generation,” says Tom Randall, director of Fare Payments at Metro.

“We hope that makes it easier for our passengers and especially visitors to use what’s in their pocket without having to purchase, acquire and reload a specific Metro card,” he says.

The pilot program begins in January with 2,000 to 3,000 customers. Riders who are interested can still apply online.

Metro is looking for riders who frequently travel between the 10 Metrorail stations or use the
six Metrobus lines.

“Between now and January, we’re going to make sure all the systems are working accurately. All the fares are deducted appropriately, all the transactions are happening on the back-end in an appropriate period of time,” he says.

Like at Gallery Place-Chinatown, the new faregates are going to be installed out of the way to make sure other customers do not accidentally attempt to use them.

The pilot program will run until June 2015, although the rider testing program will last until April.



Where the faregates are is clearly marked. (WTOP/Ari Ashe)

“Primarily, we want to determine that the technical aspects of the system are working as expected. Certainly, we’re also interested in the customers reaction to the system. How convenient is it for them? Does it work reliably for them? Is it easy to use?” says Randall.

Metro also is working with partners, such as Montgomery, Prince George’s, Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax County, to make sure that any technology rollout can be used on RideOn, The Bus, ART, DASH and Connector buses.

If all the testing goes well, then Randall says he hopes the new faregates can open to the general public in 2017.

Metro would phase-in the faregates to offer both the old and new systems until riders get accustomed to the new system.

The Metrorail stations with pilot program faregates are Shady Grove, Eisenhower Avenue, Bethesda, Pentagon City, Pentagon, Ballston, Gallery Place (7th & F), Farragut West, Navy Yard and Suitland.

Metrobus routes 37 (Wisconsin Ave Limited), X9 (Benning Rd-H St Limited), 39 (Pennsylvania Ave Limited), K9 (New Hampshire Ave Limited), J4 (College Park-Bethesda Limited), and REX (Richmond Highway Express) will have the new fare machines.

Also lots at Shady Grove and Suitland will offer the machines to pay for parking.

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