American tests SmarTrip ID card

Students and staff at American University are currently testing student ID cards that are compatible with Metro’s SmarTrip technology, but a GW official said Saturday that the advanced technology is not currently an option for GW.

American’s Student Government President Andy MacCracken began a pilot program this year that equipped about a dozen students with American identification cards integrated with SmarTrip – a tap-and-enter technology that allows riders to enter Metro stations. If the test is successful, the entire AU community may soon be offered the option to integrate their ID with SmarTrip access.

Twenty SmarTrip-compatible cards were created for the pilot program, MacCracken said. In 2007, GW’s Student Association pushed to integrate the technology into GWorld cards, but was unsuccessful.

“Two [cards] were made quickly to make sure they actually work, one of which I have. Six will be tested by AU staff, and the remaining 12 will be for student use,” MacCracken said.

MacCraken noted the biggest challenge in making the AU cards compatible with SmarTrip riders was the card’s technology, saying “We’ve been lucky that the [American ID card] specifications fit the SmarTrip specifications.”

GW, however, is not as fortunate.

Ed Schonfeld, GW’s senior associate vice president for administration, said in a statement last week that the University has “extensively looked into the possibility of combining the capabilities of the GWorld card and SmarTrip into one card.”

“Unfortunately, the current technologies are not compatible. They would not enable the functions of the GWorld card and the SmarTrip card to be provided by a single card,” Schonfeld said.

Former Executive Vice President Kyle Boyer, who lobbied extensively for a compatible card for GW students, said the University should integrate the feature into the new GWorld card program that GW is working on but has postponed.

“The SA used to have a consistent working relationship with Metro, and at one point was very instrumental in bringing Metro and GW administrators to the table together,” Boyer said in an e-mail Tuesday night. “I don’t buy the argument that the capabilities don’t exist to integrate SmartTrip and GWorld, especially if the administration is still moving forward with plans for a second generation of the GWorld card.”

Boyer said he hoped the SA and University administration “will reestablish a working relationship with Metro so that GW can move in the same direction as AU.”

While MacCracken said the initial program will cost just $200 “to create incentives for participation,” he said the budget for the wider pilot program is still in the works.

“I think it will be a great success,” MacCracken said of the program. “So far, the cards have integrated well, and I’m looking forward to the partnership it will create with Metro.”

Despite the technological setback now, students hope one day Colonial Cash will be able to be put toward Metro fare.

Sophomore Samantha Mayberry noted students could save time by only having to put money on one card – instead of two – to use the Metro system.

“If Metro used Colonial Cash, you could just fill up your GWorld card instead of having to fill up both the GWorld and SmarTrip,” Mayberry said.

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