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Metro won’t raise fares and will boost service on some lines. Is that enough to win back riders?

Metro riders are seen in this WTOP file photo. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)

In a bid to win back riders who have fled the system in droves, Metro plans to add some rail service this summer without raising fares and does not plan any significant service cuts.

That’s according to a $3.5 billion operating and capital budget unanimously approved Thursday by the Metro Board.

“There are a number of improvements for customers in this year’s budget including running all Yellow Line trains to Greenbelt, running Red Line trains to Glenmont during weekday rush hours and weekends, and improved pass offerings including a more affordable seven-day bus pass which now costs just $15 for a week of unlimited bus rides,” General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said.

However, the budget does not make any changes to Metro’s late-night service, which was reduced a few years ago. Instead, the budget includes limited money to discount Uber, Lyft or cab rides for people who work overnight. The current hours will stay in place at least through July 1, 2020.

The package complies with new spending limits imposed by Maryland and Virginia aimed at limiting operating subsidy growth.

“Most importantly, it delivers some real benefits to people who ride the system, who hopefully will feel that this is a great way forward to thank them for sticking with us during tough times, but hopefully also encourages other people who may have left or who may have never given us a try,”
Arlington County Board Member and Metro Board Finance and Capital Committee
Chairman Christian Dorsey said.

Metro hopes to draw riders back even with a long closure of Blue and Yellow Line stations in Virginia this summer.

Amendments made Thursday to the budget that got preliminary approval earlier this month included procedural changes, an Arlington County request to cut more than $400,000 of Route 2A bus service between Dunn Loring and Ballston to remove extra trips added a few years ago now that ridership has dropped significantly, and restoring a $60 million limit on the use of federal maintenance funding in the operating budget as opposed to the capital budget.

The budget does not include ramp up costs for Silver Line Phase 2 opening to Dulles Airport and Loudoun County, but the funding could be added later after issues with construction delays are resolved if rail service is going to begin by summer 2020.

WTOP’s Max Smith reported from Metro headquarters in Washington

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