It’s the end of an era: As of today, riders can no longer purchase paper fare cards from vending machines throughout the Metro system, as reusable, loadable SmarTrip cards have come into vogue in recent years.
Greater than 90 percent of all Metro passengers already use SmarTrip cards to access rail and bus systems. Today’s announcement from the transit agency follows several weeks of retrofitting fare machines to stop selling paper tickets—work that was “completed a month ahead of schedule,” according to Metro. All fare machines now sell SmarTrip cards only, but riders will be able to use paper fare cards until March 6, 2016. Riders can transfer the value of their paper tickets to SmarTrip cards at station machines and sales offices.
The motivations for the shift are several, including the fact that paper fare cards can get stuck in gates, taking them out of service and contributing to lines that form as riders try to enter or exit Metorail stations. They’re also costly to print and less environmentally friendly than reloadable technology. Metro says it’s sold more than 38 million paper farecards since 2012—enough to stretch from D.C. to Vegas.
“SmarTrip is faster, safer, more reliable and less costly than paper fare media,” said Jim Bongiorno, Metro’s treasury technical manager, in a statement. “Meanwhile, Metro expects lower expenses through reduced maintenance costs and the improved efficiency that comes from having a single way to pay.”
Other signs Metro may be moving toward being more rider-friendly? Metro has proposed an entry/exit grace period that would allow people to go into and come out of the same station without incurring costs.