Unused SmarTrip cards find home with charity

WMATA SmarTrip CardUnused and unneeded SmarTrip cards with remaining balances have a new home at a Washington-based charity.

Since January 2017, Miriam’s Kitchen, a nonprofit organization aimed at ending chronic homelessness, has been running a program that repurposes unneeded SmarTrip cards for the homeless and low-income owners.

“After we had heard about the Women’s March and the volume of people that were coming, especially from out of town that needed to buy the SmarTrip card and wouldn’t really have a purpose for it after they were returning to their places of origin, it dawned on us that this would be a good way to get a valuable resource that our guests really need,” said Miriam’s Kitchen case manager Margaret Dominguez.

The organization collected approximately 2,600 SmarTrip cards with an initial value of approximately 6,350 dollars and distributed them to their guests who had travel needs.

Dominguez, who oversaw part of the program, said the organization and their guests did not have to pay the initial $10 base price for purchasing the cards. She added that using Metrorail was more effective in helping their guests to reach their needed destinations in comparison to buses or other forms of public transportation.

Once the cards were collected, the organization conducted outreach campaigns and used the program as an incentive to help guests to reach their appointments on time. The program lasted from January to April of this year.

“It gave the luxury of more to give out to begin with and having folks get further and Metro access as opposed to just buses, which really helps in terms of follow through for their appointments, making sure they actually had the incentive to go,” she said.

The SmarTrip donation program was based on Miriam’s Kitchen’s previous transportation assistance program which provided tokens to those who needed to attend legal, medical, or employment-related appointments.

“Metro is pretty expensive already, and walking around the city with all your stuff is a lot of wear and tear on the body and not an incentive to actually go or somewhere where we’re trying to motivate someone to go if they have a little hesitation,” Dominguez added.

Martha’s Table, another nonprofit addressing chronic homelessness, ran a similar program to Miriam’s Kitchen.

“We received roughly 20K SmarTrips cards and distributed them to shoppers at our lobby market and our Martha's Outfitters stores between February - July 2017,” wrote Martha’s Table spokeswoman Alexsis Blakey in an email.

Both organizations have since slowed down their SmarTrip programs; Martha’s Table no longer distributes cards while Miriam’s Kitchen hopes to take advantage of future DC events to run similar programs in the future.

“We’ve been trying to track now when large manifestations of out-of-towners are coming to DC and we’re trying to [alert] folks, around that time, that they have this option of donating their cards to Miriam’s Kitchen,” Dominguez said. “The development team is trying track when there might be opportunities for people who won’t use their Metro card, if they would just get dust in their house or even throw it out, now we find a happy home for it because it is a huge resource.”



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