For the 2013 fiscal year, which starts in July, the transit authority proposes spending $1.6 billion on operating expenses and about $904 million on capital expenses, which include repairs, rehabilitation and new equipment.
The operating budget represents an increase of $116 million in expenses and a revenue decrease of $3 million, the transit staff said. To balance the budget, the local jurisdictions that support Metro would have to contribute an additional $53 million, and riders — collectively — would have to pay an additional $66 million through fare and fee increases for Metrorail, Metrobus, MetroAccess and station parking.
Metrorail fare increases
The transit staff said the average increase for riders would be about 5 percent, but the combinations of changes on fares and fees would affect riders differently. Some commuters who park and then ride Metrorail a long way will experience greater increases. Others who walk to a station and ride just a few stops could save a little or pay the same.
Some sample fares on the Red Line, Metro’s most heavily traveled route: A ride from Union Station to Farragut North at the peak of the peak now costs $2.15. The proposed charge is $2.10. A peak ride from Twinbrook to Gallery Place that costs $4.70 today would cost $5. A peak ride from Shady Grove to Metro Center, now costing $5, would cost $5.75. (That’s based on a proposed rise in the maximum rail fare from $5 to $5.75. The Metro board also could raise the max fare to $6.)
The best part of the entire fare package is the proposed elimination of the 20-cent peak-of-the-peak surcharge. The charge succeeded in raising revenue but failed to provide congestion relief by moving riders away from the height of the rush-hour service.
Metro General Manager Richard Sarles says riders also should benefit from a simplified rail fare system that decreases the potential fare calculations based on distance, time of day and other charges from 44,000 to less than 15,000.
One form of simplification they might not like so much is the proposed flat fare for paper Farecards. Metro’s sales pitch on this contains ideas that are a bit contradictory. On the one hand, the flat fare makes the cards friendlier. Tourists wouldn’t have to stare at the fare charts in the stations, and they wouldn’t be taking home 5-cent souvenirs in the form of unspent value on paper fare cards after miscalculating the cost of a ride.
On the other hand, the flat fares would be expensive. The proposal uses pricing to steer toward plastic SmarTrip cards, which store fare value electronically.