Metro looks to higher fares to close budget gap

The transit agency could delay projects, such as escalator maintenance, to balance the budget. (WTOP Photo/Kristi King)

Adam Tuss,

WASHINGTON — Metro is proposing a series of fare increases to help close yet another looming budget gap.

High pensions and benefit costs are the largest contributors to the roughly $124 million deficit Metro expects for the fiscal year starting in July 2012, says CFO Carol Kissal.

Riders are being asked to cover about half the budget gap through a series of fare increases.

After a presentation outlining some of those potential hikes from General Manager Richard Sarles on Thursday, Metro Board members went back and forth about what specific increases should be brought to the public for consideration.

“We don’t know (what increases are on the table yet),” Muriel Bowser, a member of the board representing D.C. and D.C. Council member from Ward 4, told reporters after the meeting. “What we considered today, was the ability to hear a lot of options from the public.”

Some of the ideas being tossed around include a 15-cent increase in the base peak rail fare for those using Smartrip cards, a 25-cent increase in parking rates and — as the transit agency tries to encourage more riders to use Smartrip — charging much more for the alternative paper farecards. For instance, a rush hour trip using a paper farecard would cost $6, and $4 off-peak.

The public will get a chance to weigh in on any potential fare hike before changes are made, and the earliest any increase could go into effect is July.

Regardless, riders at the Gallery Place Station on Thursday shook their heads at the possibility of a fare increase.

“I don’t feel like I’m getting the service I pay for,” says one rider. “The delays, the regular increases in parking fees. All of it is irritating and annoying. I’m at my limit. I’m to the point now where I’m ready to start driving downtown and paying for parking.”

Another rider says she would continue to ride Metro, even with a fare hike, but she hopes that service will improve.

“Hopefully the escalators will work better. Hopefully that’s what they’ll use the money for,” she says.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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