Metro to grant SmarTrip users ability to check card balances online

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Earlier this month Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority announced that it may revise its privacy policy to grant SmarTrip users the ability to access their card information online.

The change in policy, which received preliminary approval by Metro’s Policy, Program, Development and Intergovernmental Relations Committee, will enable users of SmarTrip to check their card balances on Metro’s website.

Metro is expected to save nearly $6,000 per year from the online option, according to an April 8 press release.

“Currently, all requests for SmarTrip data are made through the Public Access to Records Policy and responses are provided in hard copy,” the release said.

With the procedural change, copying costs and staff time spent responding to the requests will be reduced.

At present, riders can check their SmarTrip balance at Metro kiosks and turnstiles. Come July, customers wanting to find their balance online will be asked to provide their name, address, date of birth, phone number, and e-mail address to Metro.

“The user will then be required to establish a user name, password, responses to three security questions, and a digital signature to confirm that he or she is the registered user of the card,” Metro said in the release.

The changes come five years after Metro approved their current Privacy Policy. In 2005, Metro technology did not allow for online access to rider information. The Metro Board is expected to vote on the revision at an April 22 meeting.

Though the modifications will simplify the process of acquiring individual information via the Internet, it does not address the issue of online payment.

Riders can add value to their cards onboard any Metrobus, at Metro stations and at some CVS and Giant Food venues throughout the Washington Metropolitan area, but some wonder when they might be able to pay online.

“I think it’s strange that Metro doesn’t allow passengers to add funds online. It’s a low cost way to increase revenue especially since the point of checking your balance is to realize when you need to add more money,” freshman Alissa Orlando said.

She said she uses her SmarTrip card to get to her job on the U Street Corridor.

“The easier a system is to use, the more likely people will use it. With all this buzz about Metro not having enough funds from the government, they should be increasing payment options,” she said.

The technology that would allow riders to add funds online is “under development,” according to the Metro website, but for now Metro said the plan is not in the foreseeable future, Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said in an e-mail.

“We have no new information on adding funds online,” she said.

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