Managers at Metro had promised to install SmarTrip dispensing machines in all 86 of the rail system's stations by September 1st. The new machines are in, but they're wrapped in plastic and not operational.
Caroline Lucas, a spokeswoman for the transit system, says managers at Metro "made an internal decision" to keep the machines turned off because they are not fully compliant with requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Older SmarTrip vending machines have Braille instructions on their surfaces. The new machines do not, nor do they have an option for audio instructions for blind customers.
Lucas said the retrofit to bring the new machines up to code should take about two months.
Some Metro customers question that decision to keep the new machines turned off. "Metro has a lot of problems," said Clarice Killiebrew, a regular user of Metro from Alexandria. Killiebrew suggests, "Turn on the machines now, and make it widely publicized when the other features are added."
Until now, machines that sold SmarTrip cards were at 47 of Metro's 86 stations. Although the non-working new machines are now at all stations, they are not located at all entrances at all stations.
At the Red Line's busy Friendship Heights station, for example, the new dispensing machine for SmarTrip cards is located at only one of the two entrances of the station. There is no new machine on the Jenifer Street side.
Other changes for Metro SmarTrip users have gone into effect. As of now, regular SmarTrip users must have a minimum of $1.20 on their cards to get into the rail system.
The effective price of the cards is going down. Any SmarTrip user who registers his or her card online will get a three dollar credit. That reduces the effective price of the card from five dollars to two dollars.
Among transit systems, Metro was a pioneer in implementing an electronic farecard system that is simpler for customers and costs Metro a lot less to maintain than its old paper-based farecards.
The paper farecards, primarily used by tourists, are still available, but paper users pay a whopping one dollar surcharge for every train trip.
Metro bus rides are also cheaper when Smartrip cards are used for payment. Earlier this year, Metro estimated more than 80% of bus users pay with Smartip cards, and nearly 90% of rail riders also use Smartrip payment.
WTTG FOX 5 & myfoxdc
Didn't find what you were looking for?