Photo by Heather Weaver

Some crazy rumors about a Baltimore-Washington compatible smartcard are finally true.  Maryland will launch the CharmCard, which is fully compatible with transit systems in Baltimore and the Washington area.  The cards go on sale Tuesday.

The card is available at CVS and Giant locations in the Baltimore region, and cost $10 with $7.50 of credit pre-loaded.  If you go to the kickoff events, they will sell you a card with $5 loaded for $5, while supplies last.  They’re also available on Metro’s website, for $10 with $7.50 pre-loaded.

That’s a better deal than SmarTrip. WMATA is planning to lower the cost of SmarTrip cards to $2.50, but complications with negative balances have delayed that move.

Baltimore also leaps ahead of Washington by offering 1-day, 7-day and 30-day MTA passes.  Passes are good only for the region they’re purchased in, so when WMATA finally gets passes on the SmarTrip card, they will be good only in Washington.

Baltimore also already has a card registration website available.  Everything I’ve read tells me that Charm Card is 100% functionally equivalent to SmarTrip.  In fact, attempting to log in to the MTA Charm Card site loads the WMATA SmarTrip account site in a frame.

The only drawback is that they can only store $200.  Other than that, if you happen to be in Charm City, go ahead and ride their transit using your SmarTrip card.

Michael Perkins blogs about Metro operations and fares, performance parking, and any other government and economics information he finds on the Web. He lives with his wife and two children in Arlington, Virginia.