More Metro riders are making the switch to plastic farecards, just as the agency hoped they would when it raised the surcharge on paper farecards to $1 per trip.

SmarTrip card purchases increased 27 percent in the first three months after the surcharge took effect on July 1, while paper farecard sales dropped 17 percent, Metro General Manager Richard Sarles told the board of directors Thursday.

That means that the reusable plastic farecards are now used for 84 percent of all rail trips, added Metro spokesman Dan Stessel, up from 78 percent a year ago.

Meanwhile on the bus system, 90 percent of all transactions are made with the plastic cards, up from 87 percent last year, he said.

Metro raised the surcharge on all rail trips using paper farecards to $1 starting July 1, in what some dubbed a tourism tax.

Bus riders paying cash face an unchanged 20-cent penalty.

Metro has been trying to switch riders over to the plastic cards, which they said would save the agency money.

As part of an incentive for riders to make the switch, Metro made it cheaper last month to buy the plastic SmarTrip cards by giving riders a $3 rebate on the $5 cards when they register the new cards, effectively making them cost $2.