Metro fares still complex, and more costly

Michael S. Williamson/THE WASHINGTON POST - Passengers on the Red Line at the Silver Spring station head north.

The new Metro fare system that takes effect this summer will be simpler, because it decreases the overall number of calculations involved in setting the cost of a ride. But riders will still spend a long time in front of those vending machine charts.

There will be plenty of different prices, depending on how you ride, how far, and when.

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Case studies in Metrorail ridership after fare increases
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Case studies in Metrorail ridership after fare increases

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The peak-of-the-peak surcharge on rush-hour Metrorail riders will die as of July 1, but the basic train and bus fares will rise.

A tourist won’t be able to buy a $9 day pass for rail, valid after 9:30 a.m., but will be able to buy a day pass with no time restriction for $14.

If you ride a bike to a Metrorail station and rent a storage locker, you’re in luck on the rental fee. That's going to drop significantly. But the cost of boarding the train will go up and so will the cost of staying on the train for a long ride. That’s partly because the mileage rate is going up and partly because the cap on the maximum fare will be higher.

Here are the key changes.

Train fares

The best part of the whole deal is the elimination of the 20-cent peak-of-the-peak surcharge, imposed on rail travel at the height of the morning and evening rush hours. The idea was to manage congestion by shifting riders from the most crowded hours, but 9-to-5 workers didn’t have that flexibility. Metro General Manager Richard Sarles last week called it what it was: a “travel penalty.”

But the boarding charge — the basic fare — will rise from $1.95 to $2.10 during the peak periods of 5 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, and midnight to closing on weekends. After a trip of more than three miles, a distance fare kicks in, up to the maximum fare, which will increase from $5 to $5.75.

The off-peak boarding charge will rise from $1.60 to $1.70. The maximum off-peak fare will rise from $2.75 to $3.50.

Those changes are for riders using SmarTrip cards. For those using paper fare cards, a surcharge of 25 cent will rise to $1. This could have been worse. The general manager’s original proposal suggested a flat fare for cards of $4 off-peak and $6 at peak.

Bus fares

The fare for a local or limited stop Metrobus rider paying with a SmarTrip card goes from $1.50 to $1.60. There’s no change in the $3.65 SmarTrip fare for an express bus.

For those paying cash, the fare goes up a dime to $1.80 on the local and limited stop buses and from $3.85 on the expresses to $4.

This also could have been worse. The general manager’s proposal would have “rounded” the cash fare on a regular bus to $2.

Parking and biking

The parking fee at Metro lots and garages will rise by 25 cents. The general manager will have the power to vary the monthly fee for reserved parking at each parking facility, within the range established by the Metro board. That could be $45 to $65.

The charge for renting a bike locker is being reduced from the unpopular $200 a year to $120.

Senior/disabled discounts

There’s no change in the rate paid by seniors and people with disabilities who have discount cards. They will continue to pay half the peak fare. But because the peak fare is increasing, the discount fares will increase proportionately, up to a maximum of $2.85.

MetroAccess fares

Fares for the paratransit service remain capped at $7. But the amount that riders with disabilities pay is set at twice the amount for an equivalent trip on trains and buses, via the fastest route available. For many MetroAccess riders, their fares will increase simply because the train and bus fares will increase.

At the fare-increase hearings and at the Metro board meeting on Thursday, these riders also pointed out that the array of fare possibilities is astounding. It’s difficult to figure out what a trip will cost until the service quotes the fare. And then the charge for the return trip between the same two points just a half-hour later may vary by $3 to $7, according to Metro’s Accessibility Advisory Committee.

The Metro board members pledged a further review of the fees.

Passes

These types of passes will be available:

●A one-day pass for rail with no time restriction for $14.

●A seven-day pass for rail that can be added to SmarTrip cards. The cost rises from $47 to $57.50.

●A 28-day pass for rail that can be added to SmarTrip for $230. (It’s simply four times the cost of the seven-day pass.)

●A seven-day pass available on paper fare cards. The cost rises from $32.35 to $35.

●A seven-day regional bus pass. The cost rises by a dollar to $16.

●A seven-day regional senior/disabled pass. The cost rises 50 cents to $8.

Station surcharge

The board approved the concept of adding a 5-cent surcharge on entry and exit at up to two stations in Maryland, Virginia and the District to finance improvements at the stations where the surcharge is imposed. But the board has not yet imposed the fee at any particular station.

The District is likely to seek approval of the surcharge for improvements to the Union Station Metro stop.

 
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