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AUID-SmarTrip card program expands to 300 students

AUID-SmarTrip card program expands to 300 students
HEY, CHECK THIS OUT! — SG President Andy MacCracken has worked tirelessly this year to introduce combination AUID-SmarTrip cards for students. A test program was recently expanded from 20 IDs to 300. Above, MacCracken shows off his own hybrid-card.

Housing and Dining Programs will start issuing SmarTrip-enabled student IDs this Monday, allowing students to partake in a pilot program to get data on student Metro ridership.

Housing and Dining will distribute 300 of these hybrid cards on a first-come, first-served basis. All non-graduating students are eligible to participate in the program by picking up an AUID-SmarTrip combo card on Monday, Wednesday or Friday of the week of April 12 from the main office in Anderson Hall, according to a press release from the Student Government.

SG has worked with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority since last June to provide a Metro discount for AU students. The pilot program will provide data on student ridership that is necessary to determine the cost of subsidizing a possible student discount. The pilot program will be in effect from April until October, according to SG President Andy MacCracken.

A 20-card pilot program has already taken place to make sure the cards work, he said.

“We’ve so far had a 100 percent success rate,” he said. “We’re moving forward with an expanded pilot program.”

MacCracken said that the six-month pilot program will provide valuable ridership data that includes usage during final exams, summer and the first few months of school.

“We’re looking at very diverse types of usage and that will, all combined, bring us one step forward — and hopefully a large step forward — toward the Metro discount,” he said.

AU is debating whether or not to provide these cards to the incoming class of 2014 in August — an idea MacCracken opposes.

“If 1,500 cards suddenly stop working for whatever reason, which we didn’t catch originally, [it will be a disaster],” he said. “So that’s why we’re doing it with this expanded pilot program for the next several months.”

Another issue of debate is finding someone to subsidize the cost of the discount. WMATA cannot prioritize groups, MacCracken said. All current Metro discounts are subsidized from sources other than the WMATA. Federal funding covers senior citizens’ discounts and the D.C. government subsidizes public school discounts.

“If we wanted to subsidize the [Metro fare] by 25 percent and every AU undergrad bought into it, it would cost roughly $300,000 to do,” MacCracken said. “That’s a large amount of money.”

Although AU may cover the costs of the subsidy, some question whether AU should be spending money on a discount, MacCracken said.

“Is that money best invested in a discount for the Metro, or should we be using that to bring in more tenured faculty or to invest into the classroom or more academic programs?” he said. “We need to build new residence halls — is that where the money should be going? It’s just an issue of priorities as an institution.”

Anyone other than WMATA can subsidize the costs of the discount, including wealthy individuals.

“If someone who is really rich and really excited about getting AU students into the Metro system more, then if they come in and offer the school half a million dollars to create a subsidy, then we would have a Metro discount tomorrow,” he said.

You can reach this staff writer at nglass@theeagleonline.com.