Metro Board considers fare incentives to lure riders back

The Metro Board of Directors says the transit system has weathered the pandemic-related financial storm that threatened drastic service cuts, and is looking for financial incentives to lure riders back to the transit system.

The board on Thursday unanimously approved its $4.7 billion operating and capital budget for fiscal year 2022, which maintains Metrorail at 80% of pre-COVID-19 service and Metrobus at 85%.

“Now that we’re on more solid financial footing, the board is looking to the future,” said Metro Board Chair Paul Smedberg. “We will use feedback from our customers and our jurisdictional partners for this budget cycle, to set priorities moving forward.”

The budget, including a six-year capital funding agreement, will increase the agency’s spending on safety-critical repairs, in addition to platform rehabilitation programs.

Board member Michael Goldman said the panel will continue to look for ways to encourage riders to return to the transit system, as more customers are vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“We’ve had discussion on the need for fare incentives to help stimulate the return of riders to Metrorail after Labor Day, when hopefully people will be returning to their offices,” said Goldman.

Other lures being considered: “Free or reduced rates at Metro parking lots and garages to encourage our riders to use their cars as little as possible.”

Smedberg and General Manager Paul Wiedefeld expressed thanks to the local congressional delegation, which helped secure more than $722.9 million in federal relief funding, including $193.4 million through the American Rescue Plan Act.

“It’s been challenging,” Wiedefeld said, “with all of the swings we’ve had to go through, and for our customers, but I think we ended up in a very good place.”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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