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Posted at 02:40 PM ET, 01/10/2012

Metro’s fare hike affects your commute decisions


A passenger takes a Red Line Metro train Jan. 9. Metro's 2013 fiscal budget is being released. Potential cuts and fare increases may impact staff and riders. (Matt McClain for The Washington Post)

I’m sure you saw the news this morning that Metro is considering another fare hike, a 5 percent across-the-board hike for commuters who use the Metro system and the parking lots.

What this means for your bottom line: One-way fares of $6 during rush hour, no matter how many stops, or $4 during off-peak times. (Subway riders using Smar­Trip cards would potentially see smaller increases and their rates would continue to vary by trip.)

The timing comes when a lot of folks don’t have a lot of extra cash lying around to pay for what is essential for thousands of Washington workers to get to work every day.

So many people, of course, factor in Metro in their decision on where to buy a home or where to rent. It figures into one’s cost of living, commute time and quality of life. Transportation is a key part of real estate, especially in this area, where neighborhoods with a Metro station command high real estate prices.

I don’t know about you, but even a 5 percent hike feels like more than that when I’m seeing how much it costs me every day on the turnstile. Like the cash in your wallet, this kind of pocketbook cost feels like it matters more because you are aware of it every day, even if you have bigger expenses every month.

So I want to ask you about how the math adds up. At some point, the cost of commuting and living farther away from where you work doesn’t really compute.

Not everyone works in the city and wants to live in the city, but for those who commute in, at some point the cost of taking Metro is more expensive (and sometimes, time-consuming) than driving.Then more people, in turn, get on the roads, and make road traffic more congested, and so on. It quickly adds up to a mess.

A study last fall by George Mason University examines the future needs for housing and transportation and finds our region faces some major issues, if job growth projections are correct.

Parking downtown costs about $12 a day. So how does this Metro fare hike work for your own commuting math, and would you think about changing your habits? Or do we just take our fare hikes and eat them? Tell me in the comments section.

Check out our graphic: How much money you need to make to live where

And projected housing needs for the D.C. area, by region.

Interactive home sales map

Graphic: Estimate what the new fare will cost you

By  |  02:40 PM ET, 01/10/2012

 
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