The rider needs to find the station-to-station fare on the chart. Oh, but is it rush hour or off-peak? Am I going to have to pay extra because I’m using a paper Farecard? Do I get the seniors’ discount? (I wasn’t a senior when I started making these calculations, but what about now?)
One person who responded to the online version of my column also had some international experience: “In Paris, Madrid and London, I’ve never had a problem buying a Metro ticket simply because they are touch screen and ask what stations you’re entering and exiting,” wrote the commenter, who uses the handle tardislass.
Metro provides a great deal of fare information on its Web site, www.wmata.com, so you can know before you go. But I’m constantly surveying travelers about what information they gather before leaving home. Their policy: Go now, know later.
Some riders once again raised the issue of going to a flat fare, for simplicity’s sake. Riders who support that idea for Metrorail tend to be the ones who take longer trips. Their fares would come down. People who take shorter trips often would pay more. When the issue comes up in discussions of fare policy, it tends to become a city vs. suburbs debate, which rarely gets us anywhere.
Another big theme among riders — in fact, a constant refrain over the years — is the frustration with the announcements inside the rail system. Metro has improved many forms of written communication — among them, electronic text alerts, the recent upgrade to Metro’s mobile Web site and the new information displays over the station kiosks — but the voice announcements have defied upgrades.
Sometimes it’s the speaker, sometimes it’s the equipment. Again, Metro has some solutions that tend to work around the problems. The new rail cars will automate station announcements, and riders will be able to see line maps along the interior of the cars highlighting upcoming stations. That’s all good, but it will be a generation before such improvements work their way through the entire rail fleet.