Metro fares to stay, even during emergencies

WASHINGTON – Metro riders will most likely have to continue to pay, even during “emergency conditions,” after Metro’s Board voted Thursday to approve some free rides and parking tied to the Metro shutdown, but not to give Metro’s general manager the authority to waive fares in emergency conditions in the future.

The proposal would have authorized Paul Wiedefeld and his successors to waive fares or fees whenever there is an emergency, as Wiedefeld did for rail fares when the rail system slowly reopened following the January blizzard, and for parking fees while Metrorail was shut down for emergency inspections Mar. 16.

However, the board removed that provision on a motion from Maryland board member Michael Goldman.

“We may want to design a policy going forward that may have some limits on what the general manager can do, or some requirement that perhaps the general manager should find commensurate cost reductions to go along with the reduction in revenue going forward,” Goldman says, explaining that he wants the issue to be examined by a committee.

But the fare and fee waivers the board approved Thursday anyway were clearly against existing policy, which only gives the general manager the authority to lower fares from peak to off-peak in the event of a serious service disruption, and requires that he then get approval at the next Metro Board meeting.

The board approved the free parking during the system shutdown and some free rides given during last Monday’s track fire that led up to the shutdown anyway.

The riders who did not have to pay were directed to exit through open fare gates so that Metro could get them and others off of crowded platforms along the Blue, Orange and Silver Lines.

Since the policy violations were approved, it is not clear what would happen if a similar situation occurred in the future.

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