While attending college in the Washington DC Metro area, I qualified for the reduced fare SmarTrip card since I have low vision, which gave me discounts on Metrorail services and other fares. A lot of students with vision loss at my college didn’t know about this program, so today I will be sharing my tips for getting a reduced fare SmarTrip card with low vision, and what to expect from the process.
What is a reduced fare SmarTrip card?
A reduced fare SmarTrip card allows people with qualifying disabilities under the age of 65 to receive discounted fare on Metrobus, Metrorail, and other participating public transportation agencies- people over 65 automatically qualify for reduced fare whether they have a qualifying disability or not. The cards feature the user’s photo and function the same way as other SmarTrip cards do, with the user tapping the card at the Metrorail station entrance/exit or on the Metrobus.
List of reduced fare discounts
- 50% off peak fare on Metrorail
- $1 fare on regular Metrobus routes using cash or SmarTrip
- $2.10 on Express Metrobus routes
- $3.75 on Airport Express Metrobus routes
Users can receive a discounted fare on the following participating bus service providers:
- Alexandria Transit Company – DASH
- Arlington Transit – ART
- CUE Bus System (Fairfax)
- Fairfax Connector
- OmniRide/ PRTC
- Ride On – Montgomery County
- TheBus – Prince George’s County
- MTA Bus – Montgomery County
Qualifying for a reduced fare SmarTrip card with low vision
To qualify for a reduced fare SmarTrip card with vision loss, users will need to have a healthcare professional fill out the Reduced Fare Program form to be issued a photo ID card. The exact criteria for blind/low vision users is listed below, copied from the Reduced Fare Eligibility page:
7. Blind or Low Vision: An individual is legally blind, whose visual acuity in the better eye, with correction, is 20/200 or less, or who has tunnel vision to 10 degrees or less from a point of fixation or so the widest diameter subtends an angle no greater than 20 degrees. An individual has low vision, and whose visual acuity is in the range of 20/70 to 20/200 with best correction.
It’s worth noting that users do not need to use a blindness cane or service animal in order to qualify for reduced fare, though some users may prefer to have a blindness cane for identification purposes when traveling on public transportation as a way of letting people around them know that they have a visual impairment.
- Reduced Fare Program | WMATA
- Learning To Explain Usable Vision
- US Government Programs For Blind/Low Vision Residents
Filling out the eligibility form
I filled out part A of the Reduced Fare Program form on my own before bringing it to my ophthalmologist to complete Part B and C, which certifies that I have low vision and qualify for the program. If my opthalmologist hadn’t been available, I would have used my primary care doctor or one of the medical staff at my college’s student health center. Disability Services or the state unit/department for visual impairment cannot certify disability on this form, it has to be a healthcare professional.
- Application for the Reduced Fare Program for People with Disabilities (wmata.com)
- Services Provided By State Department/State Unit for Visual Impairment
- Vocational Rehabilitation for College Students
Submitting the eligibility form and traveling to the transit center
I brought the completed application in a sealed envelope to the WMATA Headquarters Transit Accessibility Center, along with a photo ID. It took about an hour to get everything processed and to receive my Photo ID card, and the card itself is valid for five years, meaning users have to submit a new application every five years to continue receiving reduced fare.
Visitors to the area can be issued a one-time Reduced Fare SmarTrip card for 30 days if they present a copy of their Disability ID card from another transit agency or a letter certifying their disability from a healthcare professional- this can be done at the WMATA Headquarters as well.
Maintaining the reduced fare SmarTrip card
Adding value to the reduced fare SmarTrip card works the same as other SmarTrip cards and can be done online or at a kiosk at the Metro station- personally, I prefer to use the online services as it is easier for me to access. Photo ID SmarTrip cards cannot be added to digital wallet apps like Google Pay or Apple Pay, so users will need to store their card in a wallet or other secure location.
Other tips for getting a reduced fare SmarTrip card with low vision
- Groups can arrange to have an on-site photo ID session by contacting the Travel Training/Outreach services. This is a great option for Disability Services offices who want to have several students get SmarTrip cards at the same time
- For people that move out of the service area, you can contact WMATA to get a refund on the remaining balance on the SmarTrip card, though this will require mailing the original card back to their headquarters
- There are many other disability areas that qualify for the Reduced Fare program, including stroke, neurological conditions, epilepsy, and chronic/progressive debilitating conditions, among others- more details on these conditions can be found on the Reduced Fare form.
- Veterans with disabilities who have been granted a 60% or greater disability rating by the Department of Veterans Affairs also qualify for the Reduced Fare SmarTrip® Photo ID card and do not need to complete Part B or Part C of the Reduced Fare application. Instead, they will need to provide a letter of disability notification or DD Form 2765