American expands Metro SmarTrip card program

American University will expand distribution of student ID cards compatible with Metro’s SmarTrip payment method to 300 students April 12, a move which could lead to a program involving the new IDs for the school’s freshmen next fall.

The program is an initiative led by AU’s Student Government President Andy MacCracken, and follows the successful testing of 20 of the new ID cards in February.

“Last summer, the idea came up during a discussion regarding a Metro discount. My office has been working with AU’s Housing & Dining Programs, the Director of Community & Local Government Relations, and Metro ever since to get the technologies to integrate,” MacCracken said in an e-mail.

Metro spokeswoman Taryn McNeil said Friday that Metro is working with American University students on a joint SmarTrip-University card. She said 350 blank pieces of SmarTrip cardstock were procured by AU for the program.

“These cards will include a magnetic strip on the first side that holds the University application data. The students, faculty and staff of the University will be using the cards over the next four weeks or so, allowing them to get the data regarding the frequency of the transit use and average fare use,” McNeil said.

“This data will assist us in framing a potential program for incoming freshmen next year,” she said, noting that the project is funded by AU’s Student Government.

“Most of the cost for this is on us. My office paid for the actual cards, and Housing and Dining Programs is handling the administration and distribution of the cards, which comes at a cost,” MacCracken said.

Making the cards has been fairly easy for AU so far, he added.

“We were very lucky that the specifications needed for the AUID were met by the SmarTrip cardstock. We literally just printed the AUID on a blank SmarTrip card,” MacCracken said.

He called the program a major step forward for AU’s partnership with Metro, and said he hopes the data collected during the expanded ID program will give a better picture of AU student Metro ridership .

“Lack of that clear picture is a major obstacle in the road toward a student discount,” he said.

MacCracken said AU faculty, as well as students, have been excited about the new IDs. About 50 new cards have been set aside for faculty and staff use at AU.

“It would be awesome to have one less card to carry around. I see no downside to combining the AU ID and the SmarTrip card,” said Jonathon Ross, an AU freshman.

GW freshman Sean Joyce said the program would be good for GW as well.

“A bunch of my friends have a similar program in Chicago. It is very useful, especially in a city like D.C., where students take the Metro all the time,” he said.

GW unveiled its new GWorld cards last month, but Ed Schonfeld, GW’s senior associate vice president for administration, said the University is not planning to connect those cards with SmarTrip technology.

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