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June 2, 2009

New MTA "smart" card to work on D.C. metro

According to Maryland Transit Administration spokeswoman Jawauna Greene, the MTA has worked out an agreement with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Administration that would let holders of the soon-to-be-introduced MTA "smart cards" use them on the Washington Metro system and WMATA-operated buses.

WMATA users would also be able to use their SmarTrip cards on MTA buses, the Baltimore Mettro and the light rail (not MARC).

This makes so much sense it's a surprise it could actually happen.

These smart cards, which store value added in advance, make the experience of riding public transit much smoother. Users can eliminate much of the fumbling for change that complicates a simple bus or rail trip.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:00 PM | | Comments (5)


Are they still shooting for October with the release, and will we ever get updates directly from MTA, perhaps maybe on their website? I feel like most news I hear about them is not from their press releases.

COMMENT: They're still shooting for October. And generally you can get news faster here than if you wait for the MTA.

This is fantastic news. Making transit a more hassle free experience and increasing the regional connectivity can hopefully increase ridership and increase demand for further services.

Off topic, this website allows for individuals to design their own vision for the Franklin-Mulberry stretch of the proposed red line. Hopefully it can spur a better discussion regarding the ideal design.

I realize that the pricing structures of the two systems are different, but will my DC SmartTrip card be able to handle an MTA monthly pass? I'd like my MTA pass to be automatically reloaded each month; that would be very convenient.

COMMENT: I'm told that all the functions of your current monthly card can be put on the new smart cards.

Wouldn't it make more sense for the MTA to also roll this out to the MARC system and allow those of use who work in DC and have our employers download our smart benefits onto our smart cards, able to buy our monthly/ weekly tickets as well? Right now they claim it is possible but it all depends on who you ask at the Arlington VA Commuter store and there have been some bugs and we have to pay a shipping charge (unless you have been grandfathered in). Or we have to wait in line with vouchers at the end/begining of the month to buy tickets at Amtrack stations. The Kiosks at the stations such as Odenton, Laurel or Savage only take credit cards. Why not set up a system similar to other regions and countries that can scan the smart card and we can buy our tickets at the stations?

Without including the connecting line of the MARC system it seems to somewhat decrease the effectiveness of this plan.

For years, the lack of connectivity between the Washington D.C. and Baltimore metro areas has been a real problem for residents who want to work in the Baltimore area and live in the D.C. area and vice versa. Due to a steady rise in population growth, these two metro areas have been converging on each other for the last two decades. Now, it is just one big metropolis.

This is exactly the kind of cooperation and collaboration we need in the greater Washington D.C.-Baltimore metro area! We need to have more of this to improve the connectivity between the two metropolitan areas. More, more, more!

I will also be watching for more of this kind of inter-metropolitan area cooperation regarding transporation and will share my findings at Thanks for reading, and please share with others!

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About Michael Dresser
Michael Dresser has been an editor, reporter and columnist with The Sun longer than Baltimore's had a subway. He's covered retailing, telecommunications, state politics and wine. Since 2004, he's been The Sun's transportation writer. He lives in Ellicott City with his wife and travel companion, Cindy.

His Getting There column appears on Mondays. Mike's blog will be a forum for all who are interested in highways, transit and other transportation issues affecting Baltimore, Maryland and the region.

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