Metro eyes modernizing fare collection system

WASHINGTON — Metro is preparing to modernize the way passengers pay fares.

The transit agency is set to choose a contractor to lead the process by July. Metro wants the new system in place within four years.

Currently, riders can put money onto electronic SmarTrip cards. But the agency also wants to let people pay with the wave of a smartphone, key fob or credit card as they board a bus or pass a fare gate. Metro has said a new system could save as much as $35 million by fiscal 2020.

“If you look at how people are making payments these days with their phones or the cards they already have in their wallet, that’s the way of the future,” Carol Kissal, Metro’s chief financial officer tells The Washington Post. “That’s what we want to adopt.”

Metro is soliciting a vendor for a five-year contract expected to be worth at least $200 million. This round of bidding has attracted more than 60 bidders.

A new payment system will involve replacing about 2,000 fare gates and 700 vending machines at 86 stations. But General Manager Richard Sarles says since existing fare equipment is worn out, now is the time to make the change.

“We’re rebuilding the system and one of the things that our customers interface most with is the fare system,” he said. “Technology has improved, and we should bring that to the customer.”