Bridging the Opportunity Divide

How Our Nation’s Capital is Improving Life for Commuters

September 19, 2014
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How Our Nation’s Capital is Improving Life for Commuters
DC metro will soon let passengers use smartphones to pay fares. Alex Wong/Getty Images
This change is going to revolutionize the daily grind.

On the heels of Apple’s unveiling of the new iPhone 6 and iWatch, Washington D.C.’s transit system Metro announced a new pilot program in line with the next wave of technology.

Metro’s new program will let riders pay transit fares with a smartphone, contactless credit and debit cards and other types of near field communication (NFC) devices like the iWatch. Starting in January, 10 Metrorail stations, six bus routes and two parking facilities will be outfitted with the new technology, but Metro officials plan to begin installing the new fare readers in October, according to the Washington City Paper.

“The main goal of this whole program is to eventually eliminate the need for people to convert their U.S. currency into Metro money,” says Metro spokesman Dan Stessel.

Officials contend the initiative is to make public transportation easier for both D.C. riders as well as tourists.

The nation’s capital is not the first city in the world to march toward contactless payment for public transit network. London’s bus system has already removed cash from its fare system, and the underground Tube is rolling out a new contactless payment program September 16.

But are days numbered for Metro’s old fare gates, vending machines and SmarTrip card program? Not anytime in the “foreseeable future,” according to city officials. If the pilot is met with success, Metro plans to install new fare readers across the entire transit system in 2017.

The city will begin recruiting around 2,000 participants for the pilot project this fall, encouraging residents who commute between the stations or along the bus routes included in the program to sign up. More details of the recruitment process are expected to be announced next month, according to Stessel.

MORE: Will California’s New Kill Switch Policy Reduce Phone Theft?

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