(CNSNews.com) – The Washington, D.C., Metro system is now selling paper tickets and plastic "SmarTrip" fare cards that bear the smiling image of President-elect Barack Obama.
Metro started issuing paper fare cards bearing Obama's picture two weeks ago to celebrate the presidential inauguration that takes place on Jan. 20. This week it also started selling a plastic Metro “SmarTrip” card that bears Obama's image. The only other president to be honored this way on a Metro card was Bill Clinton in 1993.
President George W. Bush’s face was not put on the Metro fare card in 2001 because his inauguration did not generate enough positive public attention, Angela Gates, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Metro, told CNSNews.com.
“It’s not often that we do commemorative items,” Gates said. “It’s just very special major events that we anticipate a large public interest in.”
Other events that merited special commemorative Metro cards were the opening of Nationals Park baseball stadium in March 2008 and the visit of Pope Benedict XVI in April 2008.
Members of the Metro’s executive leadership team, the general manager, and the marketing department work together in deciding when to create a commemorative fare card, said Gates.
While the paper Metro tickets can be purchased for the price of the fare, the Barack Obama SmarTrip commemorative cards cost $10, excluding the fare, or one can purchase a $20 inaugural card which includes $10 in fare value. Regular SmarTrip passes, without the Obama image, cost $5.
Metro has produced 40,000 commemorative SmarTrip cards and expects to sell all of them. The four-color cards, along with the smiling Obama picture, read: “Barack Obama, Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009, 44th President of the United States.”
Gates said the revenue from the inaugural cards will be spent to help pay for the extra service it will provide on inauguration day. Rush hour service will be offered all day on Jan. 20, which Gates said is an expensive operation.
Fans of President-elect Obama apparently do not mind paying the extra $5 for their commemorative SmarTrip passes. Most of the passengers in line to buy their cards at Metro Center in downtown Washington, D.C., told CNSNews.com that they already owned SmarTrip passes and were just buying the Obama passes as souvenirs.
“I’m buying one for me and one for my son,” one man told CNSNews.com. “It’s a part of history – the first black president.”
Another passenger said that if she used her SmarTrip pass at all, she would use it lightly because she hopes it will became a collector’s item.
“If you’re looking for a last-minute stocking stuffer, this would be a wonderful keepsake,” Metro General Manager John Catoe said in a press release when the paper passes came out Dec. 24.
Metro will return to using the image of a panda bear on its fare-cards when all the Obama commemorative paper ones sell out, which is expected to occur by the end of January.