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The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) next month will end an informal program that allows Virginia Railway Express (VRE) and Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) riders to transfer to its Metrorail system during service disruptions.The so-called Metro Option allows VRE riders to show a validated VRE ticket to a Metrorail station manager to access WMATA's system without cost during VRE-related service issues. However, in an effort to cut down on fare-payment disputes and improve safety, WMATA starting July 1 will require every rider to tap a SmarTrip card before they enter the system.As part of that effort, WMATA's emergency gates that riders use for the Metro Option will return to their original intended purpose: for emergency use only. The change in policy also will ensure that every rider is counted toward WMATA's funding grants, agency officials said in a note to riders."The Metro Option had been an informal courtesy extended by Metro that was carried forward over time," WMATA officials said. "However, there was no process for Metro to properly track or seek reimbursement for the cost of these trips, nor any agreement between MARC/VRE and Metro to govern the program."In the event of a service disruption, VRE riders still may use WMATA's rail lines as an alternative, but they'll need to use a SmarTrip card and pay for the cost of the trip.VRE plans to work with MARC and WMATA to develop a long-term solution to bring the Metro Option back, VRE officials said in a service announcement.