Capital area will expand smart-card use to buses

Washington, D.C., area bus riders have long been fumbling for exact change as they race to the bus stop. That fumbling may soon be a thing of the past. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority plans to extend use of its subway smart cards to 17 transit systems.

Transit riders in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia will use one card to pay fares on up to 17 separate transit systems, including WMATA's Metrobus, Montgomery County's Ride-On bus service, and Maryland Rail Commuter and Virginia Railway Express trains.

WMATA awarded a $12 million contract in August to Cubic Transportation Systems Inc., a subsidiary of Cubic Corp. of San Diego, to expand the SmarTrip program. Cubic Transportation Systems, the lead contractor for the project, provides all SmarTrip's network equipment, including the retail point-of-sale network. Cubic will install about 500 point-of-sale terminals throughout the region. SmarTrip uses Cubic's cards, card readers and central computer system.

WMATA last month gave two other companies notice to proceed on the SmarTrip program. ERG Group of Concord, Calif., and Northrop Grumman Information Technology of Herndon, Va., will provide back-end financial operations and customer service for the multijurisdictional smart card.

Makes travel easy

Since May 1999, SmarTrip cards have been accepted for fares on WMATA's Metrorail system and for payment at Metro parking lots.

Metrobuses in Arlington, Va., have accepted the plastic SmarTrip cards for about a year in a pilot. Passengers touch the SmarTrip card to the fare box card reader, instead of depositing money.

The estimated cost for the region to adopt the fare boxes is about $100 million, said Murray Bond, WMATA's director of SmarTrip operations.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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