Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Charm Card / SmarTrip Card
The MTA and the WMATA recently partnered up and released the Charm Card, a transit card similar to the SmarTrip card in Washington, DC which allows riders to add money to the card and swipe it at turn-styles and on buses to avoid the time-consuming and often frustrating process of buying a fare card for each journey on the metro or bus. In Baltimore, this process can often mean missing a light rail train and being forced to wait upwards of 10-15 minutes for the next train or fumbling with money on a bus as it pulls away from a stop. So when this partnership was first announced, many people celebrated, myself included.
Also, the Charm Card would work not only on all MTA services (metro subway, light rail and local bus), it would also work on all WMATA services in Washington. And presumably, the SmarTrip card would work the same way.
However, when I used the metro last week to head downtown, I tried to add money to my SmarTrip card at the West Cold Spring Lane metro station and received a message saying that money could not be added to my SmarTrip card.
I sent an email to Michael Dresser, from the Baltimore Sun's "Getting There" blog, and he responded with the following email:
Could this be a case of just one machine being out of order? Did you try any other kiosks? I haven't been hearing a lot of complaints.
Unfortunately, I was already running late and didn't want to spend any time following up on the matter. I should have just asked the person working in the booth if the SmarTrip card worked, but based on what I hear of many MTA employees, they may not have been able to give me a straight answer.
In the mean time, I have an email into the MTA Administration, and they usually respond within 48 hours. So I will update this entry when I hear back from them.
As a mass transit nut, I was excited to use this new process on the MTA since buying individual fare cards can be a minor pain in the ass. So I was disappointed to see that I wasn't able to add money to my SmarTrip card at an MTA kiosk. Since I use the MTA more often than WMATA services, I don't know when I will be able to add money to my card since I am unable to do it on line.
Hopefully, the future will bring a fully comprehensive system, where you can add money to either card at either system. After all, that's what this whole thing was supposed to be about, right?
The MTA finally got back to me and had the following to say...
Thank you for your email in reference to using your SmarTrip card. You can add money to the card at all Metro Subway Station TVM machines, Light Rail TVM machines and on the local bus where SmarTrip and CharmCard(r) are accepted in the Baltimore and Washington DC area. You cannot add money to the card on-line at this time; however, we are hoping to have that technology in the near future.
Customer Services Officer
So I guess it was just a broken kiosk I was using to add money to my card. We shall see...