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Frequently Asked Questions

  • expand-collapse question categoryApplication Questions
  • expand-collapse question categoryMember Questions
  • expand-collapse question categorySmarTrip Cards
    • QuestionDo I have to buy my own SmarTrip® Card?
      • Eligible employees are offered SmarTrip® cards when joining the NIH Transhare Program.  Employees can elect to use their own personal card, or they may be issued one card by  NIH.  NIH will not replace any card that is lost, stolen or damaged, the employee must replace the card at his or hers own expense. 

    • QuestionWhere can I get a SmarTrip® Card?
      • SmarTrip® cards can be purchased at Metrorail stations with parking facilities, Commuter Stores, CVS stores, Metro online purchases, or at over 400 retail locations across the Washington, DC Metro area. Please view the WMATA Sales Locations page for a full listing.

        If you already own a SmarTrip® card, you will need to register it correctly with WMATA in order for the NIH Parking Office to be able to make your transit benefit available on your card.

    • QuestionHow do I use transit benefits on a mode of transit that is not SmarTrip® enabled (i.e vanpool, MARC, VRE, etc.)?
      • Instructions vary by provider, but generally an allocation to your desired transit provider must be established with WMATA.  For more details and specific instructions for your transit provider, please see, Using your SmarTrip® card on Transit Providers without SmarTrip® card readers.


    • QuestionWhy does my card display $0 balance at the farecard & pass machine?
      • All WMATA SmarTrip cards have multiple “purses” or accounts that store various funds or money.

        Transit Benefit Purse: The transit benefit purse is loaded on the first of the month by funds made available by NIH. It will hold as much as your certified monthly commuting cost (not to exceed $270). Funds from this purse are spent first, before personal funds, when commuting until the entire benefit allotment has been depleted.  Any unused funds do not rollover at the end of the month. These funds cannot be used for parking expenses (compliant with IRS regulations). Funds cannot be transferred into the personal stored value purse. You may view the balance at faregate, farebox, or online through a SmarTrip® Online Account, but not at farecard & pass machines.

        Personal Stored Value Purse: The personal stored value purse contains your personal funds for parking or transit and holds up to $300. Funds may be added at Metrostation kiosks or online. Funds on this purse do roll over from month to month. You may view the balance at farecard & pass machines, parking lot SmarTrip® targets, faregates (only after you have spent all transit benefit purse funds for the month), or online through a SmarTrip® Online Account.
        *Important Note: You must have personal funds in the personal stored value purse in order to leave a Metro parking facility. Even if you have $270 in your transit benefit purse, you cannot pay for parking with transit benefit funds!


    • QuestionCan I use my iPhone and Apple Watch to pay for Metro rail, Buses, parking garages?
      • Yes, riders can now add a SmarTrip card to iPhone and Apple Watch, and simply hold their device near the card reader to pay anywhere SmarTrip is accepted: all 91 Metrorail stations in DC, Maryland and Virginia; all Metro parking garages and lots; all Metrobus routes; and all regional bus providers, including ART, DASH, Fairfax Connector, Cue, Ride On, The Bus, Circulator, Loudoun County Transit, and Potomac and Rappahannock Transit/PRTC.

        SmarTrip on iPhone and Apple Watch provides riders a "touch-free" experience and a safer way to pay. Riders do not need to touch card readers or vending machines, and with Express Transit, they can move quickly through stations and fare gates without the need to use Face ID, Touch ID, or wake their device.

        For more information view news release: 

    • QuestionCan I use android phone and watch to pay for Metro rail and buses?
      • ​No, at this time only Apple products are the only devices available to use this technology.

    • QuestionWhat is a WMATA SmarTrip® Card?
      • A SmarTrip® card is a permanent, rechargeable farecard. It's plastic, like a credit card, and is embedded with a special computer chip that keeps track of the value of the card.

        Using a SmarTrip® card is fast and easy. Instead of inserting a farecard through the Metrorail faregate slot, you simply touch the SmarTrip® card to the circular targets on top of or inside station faregates. Likewise, you can tap the SmarTrip® farebox on Metrobus to pay your fare with SmarTrip®.

        SmarTrip® cards can be used directly on the following modes of transit:

        Metro Train/Metro Bus
        DC Circulator
        PRTC - OmniRide
        ART (Arlington Transit)
        DASH (Alexandria Transit Company)
        CUE Bus System
        FAIRFAX Connector
        TheBus (Prince George’s County)
        Loudoun Commuter Bus
        Montgomery County RideOn
        REX (Richmond Highway Express)
        SmarTrip® cards cannot be used directly on the following modes of transit. You must use a transit benefit allocation for service on the following transit providers (further details can be found at our website, Using your SmarTrip® Card):
        MTA Commuter Buses (Dillon, Keller, Eyre Buses)
        National Coach Works/ MARTZ
        Quick's Bus
        Metro Access 
  • expand-collapse question categoryProgram Information & Policies
    • QuestionWhat is the NIH Transhare Program?
      • The NIH Transhare Program is an employer-provided mass transportation fare subsidy that is offered to eligible employees who use mass transportation for their commute to and from work.  Employees are provided their monthly subsidy benefits electronically through WMATA registered SmarTrip® cards.

    • QuestionHow did the NIH Transhare Program originate?
      • The NIH fist began offering a transportation subsidy in 1992 to employees.  In 2000, President Clinton signed Executive Order 13150, “Federal Workplace Transportation,” which requires Federal agencies to provide employee incentives to use mass transportation to commute to and from work.

    • QuestionWho is eligible to receive mass transit benefits?
      • To be eligible to receive a monthly mass transportation subsidy you must meet one of the criteria below:

        • A full time employee of NIH
        • An employee of another HHS agency, whose worksite is at the NIH Main campus and is not currently receiving a transit subsidy from HHS or any other agency
        • A fellow of NIH
        • A volunteer at NIH
        • Paid interns/students hired for the summer months

        The following types of employees are NOT ELIGIBLE to receive the subsidy from NIH:

        • Contractors
        • Guests of NIH
        • Any person, regardless of status that is receiving parking benefits
        • Any employee or similiar that is receiving any other transportation or parking benefit from another agency.
    • QuestionDo I have to turn in my parking permit in order to receive transit benefits?
      • Yes, if you wish to receive a Transportation subsidy, you must surrender any NIH issued parking privileges (e.g. NIH Parking Hanger, Passcard, Key Fob, etc.).  Employees may not receive parking and transportation benefits at the same time.  While on the NIH Transhare program, you would be eligible for six (6) temporary passes per calendar quarter.

    • QuestionAre vanpool riders authorized to receive monthly transit benefits?
      • Yes, if the vanpool is registered with WMATA (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, aka Metro).  NIH employees riding in a valid vanpool may have their benefits electronically allocated to their vanpool operator’s account. Contractors or guests may ride in any NIH vanpool, but will not receive the subsidy from NIH (please contact your employer to see what benefits they offer).

    • QuestionAre carpool riders authorized to receive monthly transit benefits?
      • No, unfortunately carpool riders or drivers are not authorized to receive any mass transportation benefits due to IRS tax code limitations. 

    • QuestionWhat is the maximum amount of subsidy I can receive?
      • Effective January 1, 2020, the maximum limit is $270 per month.  This limit is determined by IRS tax code.

    • QuestionIs the transit benefit I receive taxable?
      • No. Transit benefits are not taxable and do not have to be recorded on your tax returns.

    • QuestionIs there an expiration date on my monthly transit benefits?
      • Yes.  Your monthly subsidy can only be used during the month they are issued electronically to your SmarTrip® Card.  Unused benefits will expire at the end of the month and be returned to NIH.

    • QuestionCan I give or sell my benefits to someone?
      • NO!  Transit benefits are used for traveling to and from your work location.  They are not transferable or intended to be used for your leisure.  Selling or distributing your transit benefits violates the self-certification on your submitted application.  This certification concerns a matter within the jurisdiction of an agency of the United States and making a false, fictitious or fraudulent certification may render the maker subject to criminal prosecution under Title 18, United States Code Section 1001, Civil Penalty Action, providing for administrative recoveries of up to $10,000 per violation, and/or agency disciplinary actions up to and including dismissal.

    • QuestionCan I use Transhare Benefits for commuting that is work related (meetings, seminars, etc)?
      • No.  Executive Order 13150 states the program must follow IRS tax code.  The tax code defines commuting as travel to and from an employee’s home to their permanent worksite.  This does not include temporary duty (conferences, meetings, etc.)  If you would like to be reimbursed for travel expenses incurred on official duty, speak with your supervisor and Administrative Officer.

    • QuestionWhy is my transhare use being audited?
      • ​A transit benefit usage audit is conducted when we noticed a members usage history is lower than the declared amount cost when enrolling to the NIH Transhare Program.

        Our authority to audit accounts is granted in the Commuter Subsidy Programs Policy, NIH Manual Chapter 1470. We perform this audit to ensure our program is fiscally sound and responsible with government funds.

        While we understand employees have different circumstances and maybe on leave, travel, etc. it is expected that the transit benefits requested are used for their daily work commute.

        We request that an email with either your usage history report from your profile to verify the declared amount is correct OR an explanation of low usage of benefits to within two weeks of the audit.  If a response is not received, transit benefits will be reduced or suspended without further notice.

        To modify your commuter cost on-line, log on to the CAPS system and update declared commuting costs at


Important Notice:  Due to COVID-19 pandemic, the NIH Employee Transportation Services Office has immediately suspended auditing of transit benefits usage.   

A special temporary NIH parking permit has been established to accommodate Transhare participants. This permit is valid through October 31, 2020, in General Parking areas only.  To print a temporary permit, click on “COVID-19 Special Permit for Transhare.” Place this permit on the dashboard on the driver’s side of your vehicle. This permit will not be counted towards the Transhare member’s quarterly allotment.


Contact Information

Employee Transportation Services Office

Michelle Mejia
Program Manager
Telephone:(301) 496-5050
Fax: (301) 480-0854