Va. buses test smartphone-based payments during Metro shutdown

Ditching the SmarTrip card and paying fares with your smartphone could be the wave of the future in the D.C. area.

Alexandria’s DASH bus is testing a mobile payment app during Metro’s summerlong closure of Blue and Yellow Line stations south of Reagan National Airport, which starts next weekend.

To entice riders this summer, DASH is only charging $1 fares to those paying with the app, rather than the usual $1.75.

State and regional leaders are partnering with DASH on the testing, and could expand the app-based payments to other Northern Virginia bus systems if all goes well.

Metro promised its own SmarTrip app by the end of last year with the hope of fare payment features starting this year, but a new finance document shows the app and related station upgrades needed remain under development.

Maryland’s MTA services, including MARC trains, and Virginia Railway Express already offer mobile ticketing options.

VRE is another alternative during the May 25 to Sept. 8 closure of the Franconia-Springfield, Huntington, Eisenhower Avenue, Van Dorn Street, King Street and Braddock Road stations.

VRE riders with paper or app-based multitrip or monthly passes can take advantage of a discounted step-up fee during the Metro shutdown to use Amtrak trains for express service. Riders will pay $4 instead of $8. VRE will also not be required to pay Amtrak an additional fee per step-up rider.

The idea is to create more room on existing VRE trains.

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