Metro riders: Prepare to take a hike

Adam Tuss,

WASHINGTON — Metro riders are being asked to pay more to help close a budget gap — but just how much more?

Board members gave preliminary approval to a plan that would raise the average peak rail fare by about 5 percent, bus fares by 10-cents, parking by 25-cents and put in effect a $1 surcharge for paper farecards every time one is used.

Some of the other potential changes include a one-day rail pass costing $14, and a 28-day rail pass costing $230. Metro’s controversial “peak of the peak” surcharge, which charges riders using the system during the busiest points of rush hour, would also go away.

While no fare hike is good news, Metro says an improved economic outlook took what was a projected $119 million budget shortfall for the next fiscal year, down to $103 million.

“I’d never characterize any fare increase as less of a sting,” said Boardmember Tom Downs, who represents D.C. “These are hard times for everybody and (Metro) is an essential thing for a lot of people who don’t have access to cars. It’s always a struggle about the issues around equity, system needs and fairness.”

The full Board of Directors will vote to approve a final fare hike plan at the end of the month, and the earliest any change in fares will take effect is July 1.

The board also talked about the need to make Metro’s fare structure simpler, saying continuing changes to the structure is confusing riders.

“We have 44,000 different fare choices that you can make on this system. Pretty soon we’ll have to have concierges to get people through the fare collection system,” Downs said.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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