VRE to correct fare discounts as part of next summer’s increase

Virginia Railway Express first activated PTC on a Fredericksburg Line train with riders on Feb. 14. Rollout on the Manassas Line began April 1. (WTOP/Max Smith )
WASHINGTON — Virginia Railway Express needs to correct the discounts it has been offering to monthly and weekly pass holders.

As part of a proposal to raise fares 3 percent next summer on the agency’s usual schedule, VRE disclosed that it has been giving larger discounts to many riders than its policies officially call for.

Ten-ride passes are supposed to be an 8 percent discount, five-day passes are supposed to be a 20 percent discount, and a monthly pass is supposed to be a 34 percent discount.

“For riders buying a ticket with an origin or destination in Zones 1 and 2, which represent over 90% of the tickets sold, the discrepancies are in the range of 1%,” a VRE memo said.

To correct the errors, VRE plans to raise fares for most riders by 2.5 to 3.5 percent, although some riders could see larger increases. The overall increase in fares paid if the hike is implemented as proposed is estimated to be around 3 percent, due to the types of tickets that are most frequently purchased.

VRE plans public hearings on the fare increases this fall. They would then be incorporated into consideration of the agency’s overall budget.

The proposed operating budget for the year starting next summer is $90.6 million, an increase of $2 million from the current year’s budget if the funding is found for the increase. The proposed budget would continue the same number of VRE trains — 32 each weekday — and require the same operating subsidy from local jurisdictions as they are paying in the current budget year, $17.77 million.

The agency projects that ridership will remain relatively flat next year after recent increases, but that projection does not include any additional service VRE is able to offer during the planned months-long shutdown of Metro’s Blue and Yellow Lines next summer.

VRE is still attempting to work out the details of any potential extra service and whether logistics of track access and railcar availability would allow it.

“VRE has had preliminary discussions … regarding options to add supplemental capacity during this period, but no decisions have yet been reached,” the budget summary document said.

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