Washington Metro to test NFC payments in 2015

Washington Metro (WMATA) is preparing to pilot NFC payments, allowing passengers to pay for their journey with an NFC smartphone or a contactless bank or ID card. Some 2,000 passengers, 10 metro stations, 50 buses and two parking facilities are to participate in the test next year.


The Metro stations due to be equipped with new fare gates to handle the technology include Suitland, Union Station, Pentagon City, Farragut West, Shady Grove, Eisenhower Avenue, Ballston, Gallery Place, Navy Yard and Pentagon.

For Metrobus rides, passengers will tap a ‘target’ on the bus while, for MetroAccess services, customers will validate their trips using the driver’s smartphone and their ID card. MetroAccess is a shared-ride, door-to-door paratransit service for people whose disability prevents them from using bus or rail. (Update: MetroAccess will not be involved in the pilot, but it will be part of the final solution for WMATA service.)

When fully deployed, the new system will include 1,000 fare gates, 450 new fare vending machines, 1,500 on-bus payment targets, around 160 payment targets at parking exit lanes and 600 smartphones for MetroAccess operators. The new system will not accept paper tickets.

“While Metro pioneered the tap-and-go system we currently use, by today’s standards that system is cumbersome and the technology is not sustainable,” says Metro CEO Richard Sarles.

“The new technology will provide more flexibility for accounts, better reliability for riders, and real choices for customers to use bank-issued payment cards, credit cards, ID cards, or mobile phones to pay their Metro fares.”

“Over the next several years, customers will see new stainless steel fare gates with clamshell-like barriers and large, bright, intuitive displays to ease their entries and exits,” chief financial officer Carol Kissal adds. “We believe this new system will enhance the Metro experience for commuters and visitors alike.”

Washington Metro awarded a US$184million contract to Accenture in January for the new fare collection system. The service will eventually cover all Metrorail, Metro-operated parking facilities, Metrobus and MetroAccess services.

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