What do SmarTrip cards cost?
According to Brett Tyler, the Director of Customer Service for WMATA, a SmarTrip card costs $3.50 in bulk from the vendor, Giesecke and Devrient (PDF on the "GO CARD", the specific design used for SmarTrip). The cards originally cost just under $10.00 each, but with larger volume purchases, the costs have fallen.
WMATA also has to initialize the new cards before selling them. It's not clear whether WMATA has to do that manually or whether they own or lease one of the machines from the SmarTrip card designer, Cubic Transportation Systems.
Should WMATA have lowered the cost of a SmarTrip card as its costs fell? WMATA also has to pay staff to order new cards, process them, and distribute them. They have to pay staff and a contractor to develop SmarTrip improvements as well as manage the existing Smartrip program. They have to maintain thousands of individual card readers.
On the other hand, WMATA used to sell you a card for $5 that cost them almost $10. They're still willing to give you the paper magnetic stripe cards for free, and the magnetic strip cards certainly cost WMATA something. Now that WMATA is trying to get people away from paper transfers by requiring SmarTrip, I think it's time that the price of a card come down.
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