MTA smart card coming Tuesday
After more than a decade of development, the Maryland Transit Administration plans to launch its often-delayed electronic fare payment system Tuesday -- giving rider the option of using a plastic card to use the Metro, light rail and local buses.
MTA spokesman Terrry Owens called the introduction of what will be known as the CharmCard a "huge step forward" for the agency. He said it will be "one of the largest integrated transit fare payment systems in the nation."
The system is similar to the electronic SmartTrip card that has been in use for many years on Washington's Metro subway and Metrobus systems, with which it willl be compatible. The CharmCards, which will cost $2.50 up front, can then be used to store monetary value and pay fares as needed. The cards are also expected to reflect the cost of reduced-cost passes for frequent users.
"We are going to have a safe, more secure system," Owens said. "Passengers won't have to worry about paper tickets any more."
The MTA plans to unveil the new card at a news conference Tuesday at the Charles Center Metro Station. Its debut hasn't come easily. Owens said the process of developing such a system started in 1999. Since then, it has met with many setbacks and delays as officials have struggled with the challenges of making it usable across the MTA's different modes of transportation.
Over the past year, the cards have been undergoing beta testing in the hands of volunteer passengers. MTA officials have said the response has been highly positive.
Owens said the cards will be available at the MTA Transit Store, 6 St. Paul St., and at selected CVS Pharmacy and Giant Food stores in the metropolitan area. The cards cannot be used on the MARC commuter train system or MTA commuter buses.
Information about the CharmCard is available by clicking here.