If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. That’s the idea in Washington, D.C. when it comes to getting American University students a discounted transit fare. The partnership between American University and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) dates back to roughly 2010, and an initial pilot program that issued combined student ID/SmarTrip cards to be used for discounted student fares. That program failed to expand past the pilot phase, but there are now plans for a revival.
The program that started in 2010 distributed some 300 cards to American student government members, students and faculty. American student ID information was printed to blank SmarTrip cards, with the idea that AU students could simplify the transit process by loading money onto a single account, as well as see transit data and how much was being spent on fares.
As reported by Greater Greater Washington, discussions of discounted student fares, and crucially who would fund them, posed a challenge at the time of the initial pilot. At that time, WMATA was unable to provide discounts to particular groups of customers due to budgeting rules. This left the student government at American University with the task of finding a private source of funding for the discounted fares.
Using the data from the pilot, the student government estimated the cost of the discounted fares would run roughly $300,000 per year. The student government was unable to find an entity willing to cover the expense, however, and the program never left the ground.
Now, however, discounted student transit fares has resurfaced in WMATA’s proposed 2017 budget, with American once again participating in a pilot the program.
The fresh proposal is similar to that of the 2010 pilot program, only this time around there may not be a combined SmarTrip/student ID. Instead, students would pay a monthly fee for unlimited rides as opposed to adding funds to their card as they go.