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Increases In Fares, Service Unequal

In a bluntly worded address to 60 senior managers 10 days ago, Catoe said the level of customer dissatisfaction was unacceptable. The agency's image is not helped, he said, when riders don't receive courteous responses or when they see employees talking in groups at station platforms.

According to officials, Catoe also said he was troubled that managers were not noticing these problems or taking corrective action. He said that the trend would not be allowed to continue and that he would hold managers accountable for the performances of their sections.

Maryland board member Peter Benjamin, who chairs the customer service and operations committee, said he will seek monthly operations performance reports to track bus and rail service.

"Our system is not operating as reliably as it used to, and our customers are observing something real," he said.

As part of the fare package, Metro is raising bus fares 10 cents for cash-paying riders to $1.35 per trip. But the fare will remain $1.25 if riders pay with an electronic SmarTrip card.

To increase accessibility of the SmarTrip cards, Metro is planning to give about 50,000 SmarTrip cards to social service agencies in Virginia, Maryland and the District for free distribution to low-income bus riders, so they won't have to pay the cost of the $5 rechargeable fare cards.

The cards will be distributed to each jurisdiction served by Metro, based on Metrobus ridership. More than half the cards will be given to social services agencies in the District and Prince George's County, Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel said.

Officials are working out the details, including a plan to let bus riders know about the free card program. No date has been set for when the cards will be given out.

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