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Metrorail lowers SmarTrip card prices, changes exitfare policies

Friday - 9/20/2013, 9:56am  ET

WASHINGTON - To lower the price of its SmarTrip cards, Metrorail is making several changes to exit-fare policies.

The cost of a new SmarTrip card will cost $2 starting Oct. 1. For riders who buy a card at a Metrorail station or convenience store, the cost of a new SmarTrip is still $10, but it comes with $8 of pre-loaded value compared with the usual $5.

But to offset the lower prices, riders can no longer exit a Metrorail station with a negative balance greater than $1.50. Instead, managers will direct riders to exit fare machines inside the station to add more money to their cards with cash.

Dan Stressel, spokesman for Metro, said the changes are part of Metrorail's push to move riders away from using paper fare cards and more toward SmarTrip cards as Metro updates its card reader technology.

Metro rider Eke Okorie said he isn't surprised by the change.

"If you walked into a grocery store and bought stuff, they wouldn't let you out if you don't have enough money," he said. "It should work the same way on Metro."

But while Metro passengers said they favor lower SmarTrip card prices, some said it could be a hassle to leave the station to add more value to their cards.

"I'm going to be concerned about the logistics of it, if they're going to have to escort people out so that they can add more money to their card if you don't have cash," said Metro rider Claire Blodgett. "I don't ever carry cash because it's dangerous and you can't replace it if ever gets taken from you."

For passengers who don't carry cash, Stressel said, Metrorail managers will help them exit the station and refill their SmarTrip cards using a credit card at a machine outside the exit gate.

This story has been modified to correct the amount needed on a SmarTrip card to exit a Metro station.

WTOP's Ari Ashe contributed to this report. Follow @AriAsheWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

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