State awards pact allowing commuters to use `Smart Card'

Universal pay system for bus, subway riders is to be ready by 2003

April 19, 2001|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Hundreds of thousands of Maryland commuters will be able to pay for bus and subway rides using a universal "Smart Card" by 2003 under a contract awarded yesterday by the state Board of Public Works.

The Smart Card technology, in use for Washington's Metro, will eventually link mass transit systems throughout Maryland, the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia with a single means of collecting fares.

Key to increased ridership

Gov. Parris N. Glendening said the card is a critical component of the state's $500 million initiative to expand the use of mass transit and decrease reliance on auto travel.

"Smart Card is Maryland's ticket to helping reach its goal of doubling mass transit ridership by 2020," Glendening said.

The board gave its approval yesterday to a $21.9 million contract with Cubic Transportation Systems Inc. of San Diego to install the collection equipment on Maryland Transit Administration local and commuter buses and Baltimore's Metro system.

Larry Jones, a spokesman for the MTA, said that the installation should begin late next year and that the cards should be in general use by spring 2003.

Jones said a second contract would bring MARC commuter trains and Baltimore's Light Rail into the same system. Beyond that, the state intends to link all of its systems with those run by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which operates the D.C. Metro and Washington's local bus system.

Expansion to local buses

Use of the cards eventually will be extended to locally run bus systems, Jones said.

The cards will be programmed to act as debit cards or as monthly passes, Jones said. He said the cards will be sold at the locations where transit passes are sold.

Jones said the cards are intended for use by regular commuters, not occasional riders.

The introduction of the cards will not preclude riders from paying fares in cash, he said.

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