Sep 2, 2010
I've seen one strategy work if you're approaching a faregate with no one in front of you. The rider reaches their SmarTrip card out in front of them and lets it hit the sensor and stay there as their body catches up. That early tap of the card can sometimes give the gate enough time to read it and open before their body makes contact with the blocked gates. This, of course, assumes the reader recognizes their card at all.
If you find yourself in a line of people going through the faregate one at a time, please remember that you don't need to wait for the gate to close before you tap your card. Just wait for the person in front of you to get past the gates and tap away!
You've probably also heard that you soon won't be able to go negative on your SmarTrip card. This means you need sufficient fare on your card when you enter the system, otherwise you'll have to add extra money at the exit fare machines, which only take cash. Can you picture the backups that can happen at rush hour at the end of the month? A simple way to avoid that is to look at your balance when you walk through the gate. I know, looking down at the display might take another fraction of a second, but you've been gifted the time while you're waiting for the machine to read your card. If your balance gets down to $5 or maybe $10, add some extra money on your way out. You know you don't want to bother with those exit fare machines anyway, since there's usually just one, and who knows if it'll work.
[Update: Greater Greater Washington just posted this article on alternatives to banning negative balances.]
What other tips can you share to smoothly move through the faregates?