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Dr. Gridlock
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Posted at 08:57 AM ET, 01/12/2012

Metro board considers fare proposal, next budget

Metro’s board of directors will get its first public look at a new budget proposed by General Manager Richard Sarles that raises bus, rail and MetroAccess fares and parking rates Thursday morning.

The regional transit authority is trying to close a $116 million deficit in its next operating budget, which takes effect July 1.

The hikes would generate about $66 million, according to Sarles’s proposal. Local jurisdictions would have to up their contributions to close the rest of the gap, according to the plan.

Increases would hit almost all areas, including bus and rail fares, parking rates and Metro­Access, the transit authority’s service for the disabled. Metro would eliminate the peak-of-the­-peak surcharge for traveling during the rail system’s busiest times.

The actual amount of the increases would vary by trip, with base rail fares rising from $1.60 to $1.70 and bus fares going from $1.50 to $1.60. Rail riders who use paper Farecards would pay one-way flat fares: $6 during rush hour, $4 in off-peak times. Day passes would be eliminated.

Before any changes would take effect, the matter would have to go before public hearings and the board would have to pass a final overall budget for operating and capital expenses, expected to total $2.5 billion.

Many riders have expressed disbelief that the aging system would looking to them for more money, especially when they they are faced with a constant stream of delays, escalators that chronically don’t work and a system that seems on some days to be falling apart.

Twice within the last month, brake parts have fallen from trains, and riders face long delays on weekends and some nights as Metro attempts to perform a backlog of maintenance work that officials have blamed on years of neglect.

Metro also has said it plans to hire more than 1,000 new employees in the next budget year, increasing its workforce by 9 percent to 12,332.

Metro board member Tom Downs said Thursday morning that it would be the “largest single expansion” in Metro history. However, he expressed doubt at Metro’s ability to actually hire that amount of people, given a current 12 percent vacancy rate.

Officials have said the cost of that plan will be revealed this morning. The new workers would include 448 employees for Metro’s “safety and state of good repair” efforts, including track and maintenance projects.

An additional 363 would be Metro Transit Police officers, station managers, train operators and others to help run the new Silver Line to Tysons Corner and Reston. Thirty-three are for “new facilities” and 169 for “system investments,” including 60 escalator technicians and 51 rail-car maintenance workers.

Listen to the meeting live

By  |  08:57 AM ET, 01/12/2012

 
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