LANHAM, Md. (WNEW) — If Metro’s Board of Directors approves the proposed 2015 budget and capital improvement plan Thursday, the transit system will begin the process of completely eliminating paper fare cards.

The proposal says WMATA has an $8.7 million capital project planned that will retrofit the farecard machines in Metro stations to dispense plastic SmarTrip cards rather than paper cards.

The project would be funded from the SmarTrip reserve fund, which has a balance of about $12 million from proceeds of SmarTrip card sales. The cards used to cost $5 apiece, but the price was lowered to $2 in 2013.

Metro has already introduced incentives for the use of SmarTrip cards, and more than 90 percent of riders already use them instead of paper cards.

Each rail trip taken with the reusable plastic card costs $1 less than those taken with a paper card and, on Metrobus, paying with SmarTrip saves riders 20 cents per trip versus paying the fare with cash.

Metro says part of the reason for the proposed change is that “the machinery used to process paper farecards is outmoded and includes an intricate system of rollers, printers, sensors, and wiring that is difficult and time consuming to maintain when compared to the contactless SmarTrip technology.”

Using SmarTrip cards is also faster and helps to decrease backups at fare gates, Metro says.

WNEW’s Cameron Thompson contributed to this report. Follow him and WNEW on Twitter.


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