Metro Evaluating Options for Off-Board SmarTrip Loading
Metro seeks to reduce delays to Metrobus caused by on-board SmarTrip card loading by installing off-board SmarTrip® Recharge Stations at key locations across the region.
Metro has been quite successful at increasing the use of SmarTrip® card usage on both bus and rail. As noted in a previous post, many initiatives — including surcharges for paying cash — have been successful at raising the the SmarTrip® use rate to about 90% on both Metrorail and Metrobus. As many readers have noted, many Metrobus customers load small amounts of cash — enough for one or two trips — onto their SmarTrip card in order to avoid the surcharge. This on-board load transaction can take between five and 30 seconds and, on average, one out of every 14 trips on Metrobus involves a small value load. On some routes it’s as frequent as one out of every seven. This behavior results in longer dwell times, slower rides, and less efficient operations of Metrobus.
One possible solution is to increase the opportunities for loading value onto SmarTrip cards before the customer boards. While SmarTrip cards can be reloaded online, at Metrorail stations and at a variety of retail outlets around the region, the frequency of on-board loading indicates the need for additional, convenient opportunities to add value to SmarTrip cards.
Metro is seeking to meet this need by developing and deploying SmarTrip Recharge Stations (SRS) at selected bus stops around the region. In addition to facilitating the loading of fares and passes to SmarTrip cards and working with Metro’s current back-end systems, the requirements for these recharging stations include:
- Payment Options: cash (bills and coins), credit, debit; no change returned
- Design: attractive with reasonable footprint
- Durability: ability to work under DC’s weather conditions
- Security: vandal and tamper resistant, encryption
- Regulations: utilities, permitting, meeting the needs of protected communities (persons with disabilities, low-income and minorities)
Metro planners have made the decision to go solar/wireless for these devices. Using such technologies drastically reduces the cost of implementation, as the SRSs will not need physical connections to power and communications grids. No vendor has yet been selected for the devices, as is indicated by the animated graphic above that illustrates the look and feel of devices of two potential vendors.
A proof-of-concept will be conducted in June of 2014, with 14 devices installed along the 16th Street NW corridor. The bus stops were selected based on the on-time performance of the Metrobus routes and the frequency of small-value, on-board SmarTrip loading along the corridor.
What other strategies could Metro employ to reduce low-value, on-board SmarTrip loads? What locations or routes do you think could be good candidates for these vending machines?