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Dr. Gridlock
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Posted at 10:59 AM ET, 01/26/2012

Metro fare increases are tough sell to customers

Here’s something for the Metro board to take when considering a fare increase.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

A day doesn’t pass without some form of Metro headache. It can be any of the following unacceptable occurrences: train delays, track work, elevator/escalator down, no information posted on train arrivals, broken faregates, trains that stop and sit on the track for no reason, trains that can’t seem to brake without tossing riders into each other, overcrowded weekend trains, the 20-minute wait for a train even when it isn’t 6 to 8 a.m. or 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. and the non-stop fare increases.

This is Washington, D.C., and the public transportation is flat out embarrassing. I spend more money, waste more time and am super miserable riding Metro. I really feel for people who must rely on the utterly unreliable.

Metro: Wake up!

— Andrew Holtz, the District

This afternoon, the Metro board meets to consider what fare and fee proposals to put before the public during hearings in late February and early March. Any increases the board winds up approving would be imposed during the fiscal year starting in July.

Metro leaders make a logical case for the extra money. They say the transit system deferred a lot of expenditures for years, and now riders are experiencing the results. One of the results is the aggressive maintenance program designed to compensate for the neglect.

But it’s one thing to make that case in the Metro Board room or before a chamber of commerce and quite another to sell it to riders, like the thousands of Red Line riders delayed by the cracked rail this morning.

To them, it’s not a phased effort to fix this, then fix that, then the ride gets better. To them, it’s just one problem ride after another.

Holtz’s letter captures what it means to be a Metro customer in 2012. A traveler goes through the extra effort of taking transit and paying that fare in exchange for a reliable trip.

That formula was already under stress because of the deteriorating condition of the Metrorail system.Then add to that the scheduled disruptions that are more frequent now with the aggressive maintenance schedule.

The riders I hear from aren’t separating those experiences. They’re not saying, “Well, this bad experience was caused by years of neglect and this bad experience was caused by Metro’s effort to repair that.” To them, it’s all one bad experience.

These travelers write to me and ask why they can’t get their money back from Metro after an experience like this morning’s on the Red Line. Tomorrow, they’ll read that the Metro board is going to hold hearings on how much more they should pay for such experiences.

They’re not government planners or business leaders with five-year plans for progress. They’re today’s customers.

Dr. Gridlock and staff writer Dana Hedgpeth will be tweeting from the Metro board meeting scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Thursday. Follow them below or on Twitter: @drgridlock and @postmetrogirl.

By  |  10:59 AM ET, 01/26/2012

Categories:  Metro, Red Line

 
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