But those costs affect riders in different ways, depending on whether they commute long distance at the height of rush hour, make a shorter trip at a less crowded time or head for one of the D.C. region’s cultural and entertainment centers during an off-peak period.
The accompanying chart shows some potential changes in Metrorail’s SmarTrip fares if the Metro board approves the proposals. But let’s look at some specific trips and occasionally account for the additional cost of parking, an especially important factor in suburban commutes.
Long suburban commutes
A commuter driving to the Red Line terminal at Shady Grove for a ride to the west side of downtown Washington pays $4.75 for parking. For a ride to and from Dupont Circle at the height of rush hour, add $10.40 for Metrorail fare. That’s the maximum fare using a SmarTrip card, plus the peak-of-the-peak surcharge of 20 cents on travel between 7:30 and 9 a.m. and between 4:30 and 6 p.m. Our commuter pays a total of $15.15 to park and ride Metrorail.
The Sarles proposal would affect the cost in several ways, eliminating the peak-of-the-peak surcharge while adding 25 cents to the parking fee and raising the maximum fare from $5 to $5.75. The commuter would then be paying $16.50 a day, an increase of about 9 percent.
A rider who gets to the station earlier and leaves work earlier could pay the normal rush-hour fare. In that case, the current total for parking and riding would be $14.75, so the proposed charge of $16.50 would be an increase of almost 12 percent.
Shorter suburban commutes
What about a commuter who parks at Branch Avenue to take the Green Line to one of the federal offices on the south side of the Mall? It’s $4.25 to park, as it is at most stations. The ride to and from L’Enfant Plaza at the peak of the peak costs $7.40, for a total daily cost of $11.65.
Under the Sarles proposal, the daily cost would rise to $11.90, an increase of about 2 percent. Why the lesser impact on this suburban commuter? Both riders would save the 20-cent surcharge, but parking costs less at Branch Avenue and the rail trip is shorter.
Let’s look at the costs for a commuter who lives in the center of the D.C. region: an Orange Line rider who lives in Arlington County and can walk to the Clarendon station for a trip to the west side of downtown and a job at a federal agency such as the State Department or at George Washington University or another private employer along Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
A roundtrip between Clarendon and Foggy Bottom at the height of rush hour costs $4.30. Under the general manager’s proposal, it would cost $4.20. The rider would save a dime a day, thanks to elimination of the peak-of-the-peak fare.
A midday traveler heading to Reagan National Airport from Metro Center pays $1.60 for an off-peak rail trip. That would rise to $2, a 25 percent increase. The same trip taken during the morning rush but outside the peak of the peak now costs $2.35. It would cost $2.50, a 6 percent increase.