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It’s now possible to pay for a Metro ride with your iPhone

WMATA rolled out a new mobile payment service this week that integrates SmarTrip cards with Apple devices. It adds a contactless option during the pandemic.

Updated at 10:27 a.m., 9/3/20 to include additional info about Cubic Transportation Systems.

With lots of services going contactless amid a global pandemic, a new Metro option for mobile payment went live this week.

According to WMATA, SmarTrip cards are launching on iPhone and Apple Watch, allowing riders to pay for their ride by holding their device near the card reader. This is available at Metrorail stations, on bus routes and in Metro parking garages.

“We are excited to deliver a new level of convenience and simplicity for our customers. If you have an iPhone or Apple Watch, you already have everything you need to simply tap and go,” Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said in a statement.

The SmarTrip card can be added to Apple Wallet, offering “tap and go” pay at the station gate or bus card reader. Through a corresponding mobile app that is being released on the App Store, users can add funds and check balances.

The new features came about via integration between WMATA, Apple and Cubic Transportation Systems, which is the company behind the SmarTrip system. Cubic Transportation Systems works with a number of transit agencies in major cities on contactless payment options. For the work in D.C., it has a global team team supporting that includes a local team in Greater Washington of about 20 people, per the company.

The upgrades appear to predate the pandemic, as Metro initially talked about plans to make mobile payment upgrades in 2018, but the touch-free nature of the service gives it some added urgency amid the coronavirus..

“The COVID-19 pandemic has proved that there is a critical need for contactless payment technologies, especially within public transit,” Jeff Lowinger, president of Cubic Transportation Systems, said in a statement.

Along with helping to keep payment at the gate contactless, the mobile option allows riders to avoid touching a vending machine or card reader. Plus, there’s one less card to keep around. WMATA said the mobile options can also increase accessibility for people with disabilities and its integration with Apple Wallet allows for use of multiple languages.

While the launch shows a step toward what Wiedefeld has called “the future of transit,” change isn’t coming all at once. WMATA isn’t doing away with physical cards altogether, and an Android version is still in the works.

Companies: Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

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