Here’s the crash course:
Metro imposes a 25-cent surcharge on riders who use paper Farecards rather than the plastic SmarTrip cards. Apparently, that didn’t hurt enough. Even though the push to get riders to abandon paper for plastic has been very successful — more than 80 percent of rail riders use the cards — Metro thinks it can do better.
When the surcharge was a quarter, it wasn’t in the forefront of many minds. A rider who forgot her SmarTrip card and had to go with paper asked me recently whether the fare increases already were in effect, because she noticed tht the fare gate deducted 25 cents more than she was used to paying.
Just about everyone will notice the $1 deduction. (For seniors and people with disabilities, it will be 50 cents.) Join the other riders who will be buying SmarTrip cards over the next few weeks. Five rides and it pays for itself.
For those of you who can take the summer off and come back Sept. 1, Metro picked that date to begin offering $3 rebates to people who register their cards online after buying them. The cards still will cost $5, but $3 will be refunded to the card five days after its first use, the transit authority says.
The $1 surcharge on paper Farecards is likely to be a lot more effective in modifying behavior than the peak-of-the-peak surcharge was. The 20-cent charge imposed between 7:30 and 9 a.m. and between 4:30 and 6 p.m. on weekdays did not fulfill its stated mission of moving many riders away from Metrorail during its most crowded hours. It did make a lot of money, though, because most 9-to-5 workers couldn’t modify their schedules to avoid the extra payment.
The sweet spot in all this might be the elimination of the peak-of-the-peak surcharge during hours when Metro is adding service on some lines. Rush Plus will add trains to the Orange and Yellow lines between 6:30 and 9 a.m. and between 3:30 and 6 p.m. weekdays. If you live in Columbia Heights, don’t own a car, work 9 to 5 and commute to L’Enfant Plaza on one of those extra Yellow Line trains, life is good.
Basic rail fares
Well, pretty good. You still have to deal with the increase in the Metrorail boarding charge. That 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 from 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. (Add a dollar to any of those charges if you are using a paper card.)