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Whip out that calculator to figure out Metro fares

Friday - 4/20/2012, 1:52pm  ET

Adam Tuss, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Add a nickel here and a quarter there. And don't forget about the peak of the peak charge and a surcharge for using cash.

When you try to figure out you fare on Metro, do you get a headache?

"No question," says Metro boardmember Tom Downs, who represents the District. "We have an incredibly complex fare structure. We have 44,000 different fare choices."

As Metro moves ahead with plans for yet another fare hike this summer, the transit agency is looking for ways to scale down on some of that complexity.

Most likely, that peak of the peak charge -- which charges riders for using the system during the busiest portions of rush hours -- will be going away.

"If you eliminate the peak of the peak, it eliminates a significant number of the variables in the system. But it also is a recognition that as a peak pricing issue, it didn't work," says Downs.

Metro is trying to encourage riders to forget about paper fare cards and move to Smartrip cards, as well. The most obvious sign is a proposed $1 charge every time a paper fare card is used.

Board members recently gave preliminary approval to a plan that would raise the average peak fare by about 5 percent, bus fares by 10 cents and parking by 25 cents.

While no fare hike is good news, Metro says an improved economic outlook took what was a projected $119 million budget shortfall for the next fiscal year down to $103 million.

The full Metro board is expected to approve a complete fare package on April 26. The earliest any change to fare will take effect is July 1.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)