As I’ve mentioned before, I use the metro for some of my commuting. Most DC Metro riders use SmarTrip cards to make our commute faster and so that we don’t keep buying paper passes.

At this point, SmarTrip cards are very handy for transfers. If you’re transferring from bus-to-bus during a certain period, it’s free, and if you’re transferring from rail-to-bus during the same period, you get a 90 cent discount (from $1.25 to $0.35). Even the regular bus fare is discounted from $1.35 to $1.25 (with no transfer).

But there isn’t a discount for bus-to-rail, so a trip that costs $2.75 returning ($2.40 + $0.35), would cost $3.75 the other direction. Since SmarTrip cards really are smart enough to understand a bus-to-rail transfer, people have been asking for it to work both ways for a while!

The metro authority has finally decided to go ahead with it. On the whole, it’s a mixed blessing. We’ll get a $0.40 discount both ways but it’ll be a bit less each way, so it comes to $1.00 total instead of $0.90 total. It’ll only be a small savings to people who ride the bus both ways (still, 10 cents makes a difference). But it’ll be a nice savings to those who generally take the bus to the metro to work but not home.

So should Metro riders rejoice? Assuming you ride the bus both ways, you’ll save about $25 a year. If you only transfer bus-to-rail, then you’ll save about $120 a year, because you were paying more before. And if you’re unfortunate enough to only transfer rail-to-bus, you’ll end up paying 40 cents more a day and about $100 more a year.

Metro is planning to discontinue paper transfers entirely on January 4, 2009, so they’ve decided to implement this change at the same time. I expect that they plan to make up for the extra 10 cents from DC day trippers who won’t be able to use transfers unless they purchase the SmarTrip card ($5.00) and from people who commit transfer fraud.

When visiting DC, if you’ll pay more than $5.00 due to bus transfers (perhaps if you’re a regular or if you’re going to be spending several days here and using buses), then it might be worth stopping by Metro Center or anywhere else that sells SmarTrip cards and picking one up.

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