Do you take Metro four or more days a week? Is your usual trip around $2.25 to $3.75? If so, get Metro’s new SelectPass right now!
Metro SelectPass is a new unlimited pass that’s a far better deal than passes WMATA previously offered. It’s had rail passes for years, but they weren’t a good deal for most riders. This is.
Here’s how it works: You select the level of fare you usually spend (for most people, that’s the rush hour fare for your regular commute). You buy a pass that costs 36 times that fare, of the equivalent of 18 round trips. You then get unlimited rides costing that amount or less.
If you take a trip that costs more, you just pay the difference between your set fare level and the trip you took. You can also add an unlimited bus pass for $45, which is also a great deal since the main bus pass is $17.50 for a week; this gives you a month for the price of 2½ weeks.
If you use SmartBenefits, you can also get the pass. According to Shyam Kannan, WMATA’s planning head, you have to ask your employer to “allocate your funds to transit pass benefits” (a phrase which should make sense to whomever manages SmartBenefits in your organization). Basically, they just mark the money as being designated for a pass, rather than ride-by-ride fares, but they don’t have to say which pass; you can do that from the SmarTrip site.
Greater Greater Washington pushed for this pass
The initials for Metro SelectPass are “MSP,” which are the same as those for Michael S. Perkins, the Greater Greater Washington contributor who championed a flexible, unlimited pass which looks a lot like the SelectPass.
Kannan said the initials weren’t intentional, but Perkins’ articles did inform and persuade the planners who worked on the pass. He said, “This reflects the value of the Greater Greater Washington community, the ability to take ideas, percolate them, work them through a collaborative dialogue, and make them actually happen.”
"It also reflects the ability of the agency to innovate,” he added. “[For] anyone who is a semi-regular to regular Metrorail user, it should save them money — 20-22% off your regular trips, plus you get to travel as much as you want nights and weekends. For anyone that’s wanted to really lead a transit lifestyle but felt that the cost of that incremental trip was a barrier, we’ve now given you all the reasons in the world to say I can now live car-free, purchase the pass, and take transit all I want.”
Help the pilot succeed
Right now, the program is a pilot. If a lot of people use the pass and it leads to more trips on Metro or hits other benchmarks, and if the board of directors doesn’t meddle too much, WMATA officials hope to make it permanent.
They will also add more tiers. Right now, there are just the two, $2.25 and $3.75. That covers a lot of commuters, but not all. The ultimate plan is to offer a pass that’s 36 times the daily one-way cost for any rider. Seattle’s PugetPass, which was the inspiration for this pass, lets people do just that — they can pick any fare level and buy a corresponding pass.
Addendum: Some readers have asked if this is going to cost WMATA money. This article discusses that question in more depth. Basically, while a pass could save an individual rider money, it can attract people to ride more and encourage people to use off-peak capacity that’s already going empty.
Also, a pass can smooth out revenue ups and downs. WMATA lost about $2 million by shutting down for one day. If most people were on passes, that wouldn’t have happened, nor would it hurt the budget during snowstorms or federal government shutdowns, which are outside WMATA’s control.
If the $2.25 and $3.75 levels don’t work for you, just sit tight. If they do, help make the pilot a success, and save yourself some money, by getting your pass now.