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Proposal for

Metro Smart Passes

Michael Perkins
Transit Passes are Valuable

Encourage Transit Ridership
− All you can eat
− Off-peak
− Transit vs. Driving

Promote Customer Loyalty
− “Cell Phone” pricing model
− Simple and predictable

Make Finances Predictable
− Stabilize Agency Revenues
− Stabilize Customer Costs

Allow Pricing Differentials
− Between frequent riders and others
Other Agencies Agree

Most offer passes

Most passes are monthly

Monthly passes are 30-50 times regular fare
(regular fares typically higher)

35-41.5 typical for WMATA peers (MBTA,
SFMTA, CTA, Tri-Met, Puget Sound,

But WMATA doesn't have just one fare
(distance and time)
WMATA Passes Are Outdated

Bus: Flash pass (formerly DC Streetcar passes)

Rail: Two types
− Rail Fast Pass

More expensive, but unlimited distance

Offers very long distance commuters a
− Short Trip Pass

Cheaper, limited distance

No commuter discounts

Inconvenient (exact change)

These passes are limited by the technology available at the time
Conversion Won't Fix the

WMATA converting passes to Smartrip

Current passes are rail or bus only

Current rail passes leave out short-distance

No transfer discounts

Potential revenue downside for WMATA
(especially with rail Fast Pass)
But Technology Can

We should have passes to promote transit
ridership and a “transit culture”

WMATA's fare structure would require too
many passes to serve a wide range of
customers (peak-of-peak, disabled, bus,
rail, etc.)

Technology presents a solution
Puget Pass is an Example

Seattle using smartcard technology to its fullest
− Variable pass pricing

Seattle area similar to Washington
− Many local agencies
− Distance-based, peak and off-peak,
student, handicapped
− One pass for commuter rail, ferry,
streetcar, light rail, bus, trolleybus
Proposal – WMATA “Smart Pass”

Customer chooses their one-way fare value

Monthly pass price is 40 times that fare

Equal or lesser trips are free (rail or bus)

Customer pays extra from stored value for
more expensive trips

Rail-bus trips are treated as one long trip
− Example: $2.00 rail and $1.00 bus
transfer need a $3.00 pass - $120 per

Share revenues based on usage
Smart Pass Benefits Customers

Simplifies pass system

Serves all customers equally
− Long/Short Distance
− Rail/Bus
− Elderly/Disabled
− “Peak of Peak” or not

Fixed monthly transit bill

Regular customers get the “nights and
weekends” free – just like cell phone
Smart Pass Benefits Agency

Reduces pass complexity – no need for
short/long, disabled, separate bus and rail

Increases off-peak ridership

Pay in advance

Days off don't cut into agency bottom line
− Sick/Travel/Leave
− Snow day

Same discounts for everyone
Smart Pass Benefits Region

Cuts down on vehicle trips

Encourages “Car-light” or “Car-free” living

Reduces parking demand

Increases Transit Ridership

Increases economic activity

Makes the system more equitable
Monthly passes work better
• Weekly passes allow customers to pick and
choose their “good” weeks
• Maximizes revenue losses for the agency
• Monthly makes it harder to opt out of low-
ridership weeks
• Longer periods require bigger discounts
Federal Subsidy Suggests Passes

Federal Workers
− Encouraged to get a pass if it's the same
price as their commute
− 12 federal holidays and >13 annual leave
days = <235 work days a year
− But 12 monthly passes mean the agency
is getting paid for 240 transit days a year
− No additional cost to the rider
− This only works if passes available at <42
trips per month
Smart Pass allows price
discrimination for frequent riders
• Complicated way: Higher fares for paper
farecards or cash
• Helps even infrequent riders if they get a
Smartrip card
• Only passes allow the agency to hold prices
steady on frequent riders while increasing
single-ride fares
• Example: Increase fares 10%, but cut the
multiplier from 40 to 38
Smart Passes could lead to more
sophisticated programs
• University Passes
• Eco Passes
• Allow a whole group to buy a pass for
everyone at once
• Works like group insurance
• Mandatory fee or employer payment
• Everyone gets the same pass
• Reduces parking demand