Metro: People Are Actually Using Their Farecards!

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘orphum’

This should shock precisely no one, but WMATA is expressing some concern that riders are actually using their farecards until they’re empty. WMATA was hoping to use the $11M in unused fare-dollars for other budgetary purposes next year, but the rise in SmarTrip card usage (upwards of 70% on rail and 60% bus, now!), and the recession that has people keeping their farecards and reloading them, even when they have less than a fare on them. Metro had been tapping up to 5% of fares as a slush fund of sorts useful for paying small deficits, but with fewer farecards in use, their accountants are recommending only 3% of fares be used in that manner.

There are internal proposals at Metro to raise fares up to 15% to cover the budget gap.

I live and work in the District of Columbia. I write at We Love DC, a blog I helped start, I work at Technolutionary, a company I helped start, and I’m happy doing both. I enjoy watching baseball, cooking, and gardening. I grow a mean pepper, keep a clean scorebook, and wash the dishes when I’m done. Read Why I Love DC.

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4 thoughts on “Metro: People Are Actually Using Their Farecards!

  1. The first year I lived in the area, I noticed that my roommate would leave low-value farecards lying randomly around the house. This offended my midwestern sensibilities, so she at least started leaving them lying around her bedroom instead of anywhere in the house. After I got my Smartrip card, she realized she might actually get something out of all those farecards, and she made a more concerted effort to collect them, instead of just losing them.

    But then it turned out she didn’t have the patience to feed them into the farecard machine, so she eventually presented the whole bundle to me, and I added them all to my own Smartrip. I think it was more than ten bucks in the end.

  2. Let’s see – Metro surely is saving costs by not having to print so many farecards as before. And don’t they charge an extra fee when you first buy a SmartCard? So I don’t really understand the issue here

  3. Andy, this issue is sort of the product of accounting practices. You buy a $20 farecard, and that money immediately is collected by Metro. But Metro doesn’t *recognize* that revenue on their books until you use it. So this pile of money is sitting in a bank account, but it’s only getting spoken for $1.35-$2.00 at a time. So your $20 is sitting there, and you’re chipping away at it, little by little, you and all the other metro riders. Metro knows that riders don’t keep close track of low-value farecards, so it has historically been able to count on $1 of every $20 in farecard money essentially being “free” money- money received for which no service was rendered. They’d take that dollar and apply it to other shortfalls.

    Now, because fewer farecards are in use and people are being more careful about using them up, Metro can’t count on that $1, they are only counting on about $.60. They may be saving money in other areas, but those savings have already been accounted for an allocated. They’re getting less unallocated “free” money from farecard usage.