Metro opens SmartTrip express lane at selected stations

Metro unveiled new fare gates Monday that only permit riders with SmarTrip cards to pass through in an effort to decrease wait times.

The Pentagon City, New Carrollton, Vienna, Bethesda and Anacostia stations are the first to receive the new gates. The “express lanes” will allow 32 riders per minute – 10 more than the fare gates that take both paper cards and SmarTrip, to pass through the gates Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority officials said.

The stations were chosen for at least one express lane each because each had over 80 percent of riders using SmarTrip, said Lisa Farbstein, director of Media Relations for WMATA.

“What we know that people want with mass transit is to get where they’re going as fast as possible,” Farbstein said.

She added that SmarTrip users are usually more in a hurry than paper ticket-holders.

“The idea is that people who are using the express lanes don’t have to wait,” Farbstein said. “An example is . say an out-of-town visitor that might not be familiar with the SmarTrip card, and you know the one or two people who are fumbling with their paper card, you just want to tell them to . ‘move!'”

She said the addition of new express lanes depends on how the test-runs in the five stations go. Gallery Place and the Navy Yard, where the new baseball stadium is being built, are two stations that would benefit most from the new lanes, Farbstein said.

Although passengers with SmarTrip cannot currently save money with day, weekend or week passes, WMATA is working on adding that feature to the card.

“It’s something that we’re working on in the near future,” Farbstein said. “I don’t have a timeline.”

Virginia resident Dameon Neam said he saw the new lane in the Pentagon City station and thought it was a good idea.

“D.C. has tourists that don’t always know how to use the cards,” he said. “At Gallery Place, going to the stadium, the Nationals games, you always get caught behind someone.”

GW law student Kristyn Kohut agreed.

“There’s nothing worse than getting stuck behind people with a card,” she said. “You just want to say, ‘go!'”

Others say that while the SmarTrip-only fare gates sound like a good idea, they haven’t seen a need for it.

“I haven’t really encountered any issues with lines at any of the turnstiles,” said Sue Bouchard from Alexandria, Va. “I guess it would be a good idea . if there have been problems.”

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