WTOP has a story that leads with “Preliminary discussions are underway for a pilot program that will let federal workers and contractors use their employee identification cards to pay Metro fares, Federal News Radio reports.” That’s apparently an over-statement, as the (very preliminary) discussion is simply a part of DoD’s efforts to expand the use of their hoitsy-toitsy ID cards into the public space. Known as the Common Access Card, the technology is purportedly flexible enough to store a lot of biometric information and be used in non-military/defense settings.
The aspect of the Federal News Radio story that WTOP is referencing comes at the end, where they make mention of a pilot program with transit systems in Salt Lake City. There’s a clear motivation for the DoD to make this happen – they identify over 35,000 employees who receive a transit subsidy. If they can tie them to the employee’s ID card they can reduce the possibility of fraud. Current SmartBenefits systems simply tie the electronic refills to a SmarTrip card which someone could lend to others.
Less clear is why WMATA would want to spend any money on this when their current payment system still languishes. Seven months after they discontinued paper transfers and required the use of a SmarTrip card to get transfer discounts they still don’t have any automatic recurring or online methods for refilling the cards. It’s impossible to say right now what additional functionality this open payment system would have – the RFP on the WMATA website is apparently damaged and not opening. Perhaps it solves their credit card payment issues as well.