Metro to give some riders money back when trains are delayed

WASHINGTON — Metro riders will soon be able to leave a station when there’s a big delay without paying for it, according to a $1.7 billion Metro budget proposal that advanced Thursday.

Also under the plan, approved by the Metro Board’s finance committee, riders will likely see new monthly pass options beginning in July.

Transit leaders want to keep regional contributions flat while avoiding fare increases and service cuts.

The proposed budget keeps subsidies and fares flat. Metro still faces a long-term structural budget deficit that could exceed $1 billion in coming years.

The changes would allow rail riders, who enter a station but decide to leave because of delays within 15 minutes, to get a refund after they tap out of the system.

Currently, those riders are charged the minimum fare for that time of day. The change would refund that charge the next time riders use their SmarTrip the following day or later.

Metro staffers dropped a proposal aimed at speeding up buses, which would’ve denied commuters a chance to load funds onto their SmarTrip cards as they board. Metro said riders didn’t like that idea because it was too inconvenient.

Metro still hopes to eliminate the bus delays, but not until riders have more chances to load money onto SmarTrips at bus stops and other locations.

Under a pilot program, the passes will go on sale March 16 to be used beginning April 1. The monthly passes give riders the option of paying a flat, monthly rate that would cover all rides up to a given fare.

If the pilot program succeeds, the passes would be released with more price points in the future.

Metro plans to roll out combination passes for bus and rail service over the next year.

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