D.C. Metro system board expected to vote on fare hikes and parking increase
By Dana Hedgpeth,
Metro’s board of directors is expected to vote Thursday on an increase in parking fees and an across-the-board boost in bus and rail fares.
The vote would follow six public hearings Metro held in February and last month, where riders expressed frustration about the poor service and delays they often encounter in the transit system, a stinging counterpoint to the prospect of paying more. Metro last put in place a broad fare increase in the summer of 2010.
Two weeks ago, Metro’s finance committee approved fare increases that average about 5 percent on rail. The actual amounts would vary depending on the distance that a rider travels. The rates would go into effect July 1.
Transit officials said it takes about 60 days to update and test the computer systems, and crews need time to make and install new signs. In May, the board is expected to decide on the passage of its $2.5 billion annual operating and capital budget for fiscal 2013. Metro has projected that it will have a $103 million deficit, which officials hope to close with revenue from the fee increases and larger subsidies from local jurisdictions.
Metro’s base peak fare for rail riders would increase from $1.95 to $2.10. The maximum peak fare would increase from $5 to $5.75. The base off-peak rail fare would increase from $1.60 to $1.70. The maximum off-peak fare would be $3.50. Bus fares would increase by a dime, rising to $1.60 for those who use SmarTrip cards. Parking fees at Metro lots and garages would rise by 25 cents.
Bus riders who pay cash would face a 20-cent surcharge. Metro has said it wants to push more people to use electronic Farecards because they are more efficient and transactions cost less to process.
Although the maximum charge for MetroAccess rides would remain $7, some of those riders would also experience increases, because fares for the service for the disabled are calculated using bus and train rates.
Riders would also have the ability to buy a 28-day unlimited pass, which would be available on electronic SmarTrip cards. The pass would cost $230 and would allow a user to travel an unlimited distance any time of the day. However, critics have complained that the pass offers no savings for regular commuters.
Metro also would eliminate its $9 one-day pass, which is valid after 9:30 a.m. on weekdays, and institute a $14 one-day pass that has no time restrictions.