In the not-too-distant future, Metro riders will be able to eschew their SmarTrip cards and pay using their mobile phones.

Metro said it is embarking on a multi-phase effort to overhaul its fare collection system, with an eventual goal of allowing for mobile payments at all rail stations and on all buses. Metro said it will develop a smartphone app to allow riders to pay, get schedule and service information, and manage their SmarTrip accounts.

The multi-phase upgrade process will involve the following:

  • Metro will begin upgrading fareboxes, gates, and vending machines to support mobile payments. Some of this work has already begun.
  • By 2019, Metro will create a platform that supports multiple mobile payment providers.
  • In 2020, Metro will begin replacing fare gates at all 91 stations. (There are more than 900 gates in all.) Buses will also get new fareboxes.
  • Metro will then install new, smaller fare vending machines that feature touchscreens and better ease of use.

It’s unclear precisely when all riders will have access to mobile payments. Each mobile provider must show it can meet certain technical requirements to work with Metro’s system.

Metro has hinted at the idea of mobile payments for several years. The new system upgrade is expected to cost nearly $300 million.

Click here to sign up for commuter news and real-time traffic updates for free, delivered to your inbox Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.