Metro proposes fare increases, some riders hit harder

MetroAccess representatives are concerned those who use the service are not aware that the fares could double if Metro\'s proposal is approved next spring. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)

WASHINGTON – Metro is proposing raising fares again by a small amount, but the change could affect one group far more than most.

If approved, the changes proposed by Metro General Manager Richard Sarles would take effect in July 2014, raising rail fares by 3 percent, or 10 cents for the average $3 ride.

Metro bus fares could go from $1.60 for SmarTrip users and $1.80 for those using cash to a standard $1.75 rate. MetroAccess access fares would be double the base rate for bus, plus an extra per-mile fee.

Denise Rush, the vice chair of the MetroAccess sub committee, wants it to be clearer to the elderly and disabled who use MetroAccess buses their fares would increase even more next year.

“Instead of paying (the current) $3.20, they’ll pay $3.50 for the bus, plus whatever the distance. And that’s not clear,” Rush says.

The MetroAccess fare is directly related to the Metro rail and bus fares. When anyone takes any type of Metro transportation, they pay a mileage fee as part of their trip, says Metro spokesman Dan Stessel.

For rail and bus riders, it’s 2 cents for every mile over the first three miles. Because MetroAccess is double every bus fee, that means a 4 cent fee for each mile over 3 miles.

This seemingly small addition adds up, says Rush.

“The one thing we’ve done though is not to let the maximum fare increase,” says Sarles, who emphasizes the MetroAccess fare caps out at $7.

Shortly after a meeting of the Washington Metropolitan Area Board Transit Authority Thursday morning, Sarles outlined his proposal to charge a higher fee to riders next year.

Metro set its proposed fare increase at a lower rate than the 5 to 7 percent increase that took effect in July 2012. That last increase resulted in fewer riders taking Metrorail during fiscal year 2013, Sarles says.

While he expects negative feedback from customers about the proposed increase, he says, riders are starting to see what improvements they are funding.

“Are we done with all the improvements or digging out of the hole? No. But what we are seeing is lighting in stations that was talked about, the first 7,000 series cars will be delivered very shortly and start testing — maintenance, reconstruction and rehabilitation — all goes to making a better experience so people will put up with fewer incidents,” Sarles says.

The fare increases are intended to pay for those ongoing maintenance projects and rail cars needed to provide eight-car trains during rush hours.

Some riders have mixed feelings about the proposed rate hike. While waiting for the bus on H Street in Chinatown, Melissa Price was glad to hear about the proposed flat rate to ride, but was not thrilled with the extra 15 cents she might have to pay per ride.

“At some point it does add up as far as people who take Metro and paying for the SmartTrip,” Price says.

Parking fees will also see a bump of a proposed 25 cents at all stations.

The proposed rate hike will be up for public comment in January and is expected to go back before the board for approval in the spring.

Other details from the meeting:

  • $41,880 approved for additional bus service in Maryland to National Harbor scheduled to start Dec. 29, 2013.
  • Metro rail will stay open until 2 a.m. on New Year’s Day.
  • Over the next six years, Metro will replace and rehabilitate a minimum of 400 rail cars, 200 buses and 150 MetroAccess buses.

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