So WMATA was poised to enact some major, wrenching changes to SmartBenefits with very little notice to those who would be effected, but in the end, they opted to punt it back a year after giving everyone a good scare. While they're figuring out how to conform to IRS regulations regarding transit benefits, perhaps they could undertake what would seem to be a much more simple task that would actually help customers: enabling anyone to add money to their SmarTrip over the Internet. The issue is on the table, but, like SmartBenefit changes, keeps getting pushed back.
Being able to add fare online would not only provide greater convenience to passengers, but it would also stem situations like this.
From a reader:
I recently started driving to work because Metro-ing was wasting such a ridiculous amount of time. It took an hour to ride the Orange Line then transfer to the Blue Line to get to Braddock Road.Other items:
Driving takes 15 minutes, 17 on a bad day.
But the other day, I decided to Metro since I had to go into DC after work.
I took my farecard and swiped it at my home station, Virginia Square. With only 70 cents, I knew I would need to add fare before making a return trip.
When I arrived at the Braddock Road station, I didn't have enough fare to exit the station (duh). Thankfully, "a SmarTrip® card will let you take one trip that results in a negative balance, but value must be added before it can be used again on Metrorail or Metrobus," a quote from the MetroOpensDoors Web site.
To prepare for my trip home, I approached one of the two fare machines at the Braddock station and attempted to add fare. After choosing the amount and swiping my credit card, the machine told me my transaction had been canceled. I proceeded to the other machine, and the machine did the same thing!
So, I went to speak to the station manager:
Me [perky, having had two cups of coffee]: Hi there! Are these fare machines working? I need to add money to my SmarTrip.
Him [Looking irritated - how dare I interrupt the ever-important conversation he's having with the other operator in the booth]: No, they aren't working. None of them are working.
Me: None - as in, this problem is station-wide?
Me [irritated, now thinking "Would it be so hard for one of these two able-bodied men to put up a sign so a to inform Metro's waning ridership of this epidemic?"]: Well, how am I supposed to add fare?
Him: Get it somewhere else. Or get cash. Or try later.
Geez. Thanks. Get it somewhere else? The closest CVS to this stupid station is a mile away. And why should I have to get cash? Couldn't Metro enable you to add fare online, like Starbucks?
We're getting cell reception added to the lines, but you can't add fare?!?
Dulles project under review (WaPo)
Metro beefing up holiday service (WMATA)