Virginia Railway Express passengers will see a 3 percent fare increase in their daily tickets and monthly passes July 1 after the railway’s Operations Board formally approved the increase Friday.
The fare hike was discussed in March at seven community meetings from the District to Stafford County. Meetings in Burke and Stafford had no residents in attendance – a first for the VRE, according to CEO Dale Zehner.
From Fredericksburg to Union Station, monthly passes now cost $285.50, and single rides are $10.30. Starting in July, monthly pass riders will see a 22-cent increase per trip, or about $9 per month, and a single trip will cost 35 cents more. Increases vary by zone.
A total of 29 people showed up for the community meetings, Zehner said. Trains have been running at more than 95 percent on-time in recent months, and efforts to cut down on maintenance problems have been successful, VRE officials say.
Of the comments that railway officials tallied, 25 had “negative comments” about the proposed increase and 16 said the increase to fares were understandable, according to a VRE report.
Stafford County Supervisors Susan Stimpson (R) and Paul Milde (R) voted against the proposed increase. The other 11 board members voted in favor.
Given that VRE’s nine localities are seeing 3 percent increases as well, Stimpson said the fare increase shouldn’t be necessary. Milde said that fare increases send the wrong message to prospective riders.
“We should be trying to encourage people to ride the rail and stay off the highways,” Milde said after the board meeting. “The fare increase has the opposite effect.”
The increase is expected to generate about $900,000 in additional revenue next year to pay for rising fuel costs and increased payments to Keolis, VRE’s primary contractor that runs the day-to-day operation of the railway.
The Operations Board also voted to extend Keolis’ contract for a third year at a cost of $18 million. The three-year contract is not to exceed $56.5 million.