Metro debuts ‘touch-free’ SmarTrip payments with Apple Wallet

The Washington Metro’s SmarTrip card has officially launched on select Apple devices for touch-free payment, and the transit agency said SmarTrip on iPhone and Apple Watch is a first of its kind in North America.

Starting Tuesday, SmarTrip users with a compatible iPhone or Apple Watch can ride quickly and seamlessly by pairing their cards to Apple Wallet and holding their devices near a card reader at any location where the physical card is accepted, including fare gates in stations, buses and parking lots.

“If you have an iPhone or Apple Watch, you already have everything you need to simply tap and go,” Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said in a news release. “In every step in the customer journey, SmarTrip on iPhone and Apple Watch makes it simpler, easier, faster, safer … just better.”

Apple’s touch-free SmarTrip payment is offered in all 91 Metrorail stations, all Metrobus bus routes and all regional bus service providers including ART, DASH, Fairfax Connector, Cue, Ride On, TheBus, Circulator, Loudoun County Transit, and Potomac and Rappahannock Transit/PRTC.

Commuters will need to have an iPhone 8 or newer, or an Apple Watch Series 3 or newer, running the most recent version of Apple’s iOS software to use the new payment method.

Riders can add an existing SmarTrip card to their Apple Wallet or purchase a new one. To start, open the Wallet app on your iPhone, tap the “+” key, choose SmarTrip under Transit Cards, and select the option to transfer a card or add value for a new one. See video tutorials on Metro’s website.

After following the instructions, you’ll get an on-screen confirmation from Apple Wallet that your balance has been transferred. Fair warning: Your physical card won’t be useable anymore, meaning your prized special edition cherry blossom or Caps victory card will become a relic.

Paying a fare doesn’t require an unlock through a passcode, Face ID or Touch ID — in its FAQ, Metro said riders just need to hover their phone over a reader. Users of the iPhone XS/XR or newer will also be able to pay with their phone for up to five hours after it runs out of power.

Metro has also launched a new SmarTrip app to complement Apple Wallet, where commuters will be able to view card balances, reload balances, set up Auto Reload, purchase passes and manage SmartBenefits.

Metro said the technology is the result of integration between Metro, Apple and Cubic Transportation Systems, the company behind the SmarTrip system.

For now, SmarTrip’s touch-free pay is limited to Apple devices. Metro seeks to make the service available on the Android platform later this year.

Alejandro Alvarez

Alejandro Alvarez joined WTOP as a digital journalist and editor in June 2018. He is a reporter and photographer focusing on politics, political activism and international affairs.

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