Lots of Moving Parts In Metro Changeover

Here is one of the signs that will be posted in buses during the changeover to Metro's new fare system
Here is one of the signs that will be posted in buses during the changeover to Metro's new fare system (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority)
By Lena H. Sun
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 21, 2007

Now comes the nitty-gritty. In little more than two weeks, Metro will roll out 96,774 subway fares.

Metro riders who want to figure out how much more their commutes will cost come Jan. 6 can look them up on detailed fare charts or the updated Trip Planner posted Wednesday on Metro's Web site ( http://www.wmata.com).

The day before the new fares go into effect, dozens of Metro crews will replace signs at 86 subway stations, at 36 parking lots and on about 1,500 Metrobuses. Specialists are electronically adjusting and testing each fare gate, farebox and parking gate to make sure the thousands of pieces of equipment will know how much money to deduct from passengers' fare cards.

At 3 a.m. Jan. 6, four hours before the rail system opens, the new fares will be sent electronically to each piece of equipment.

Now that the Metro board has approved the largest increases in subway fares and parking fees in the agency's history, employees are running the equivalent of a logistics marathon to make sure the changeover goes smoothly.

Generally, it takes six weeks to do all the work involved in a fare change, officials said. This time, the agency had half that time. "Everyone is in a blitz mode," spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said.

Officials have recalculated 96,774 subway fares. (Metrorail fares vary depending on time of day and length of trip; there are also discounts for students, seniors and people with disabilities.) New charts and signs have been designed. Metro's print shop and other divisions will start manufacturing about 1,500 subway station signs and 1,500 bus decals next week to meet a Jan. 2 deadline.

"The goal is to have all the signs up by Jan. 6," said Michael McBride, the agency's art and graphic design manager.

Each kiosk chart is specific to an individual station, which meant designing 86 layouts. On Jan. 5, crews on each of the five subway lines will be putting up signs, starting from the downtown stations and from the ends of the lines.

By the end of this week, various departments will have reviewed and checked the charts and signs to make sure the rush-hour and off-peak fares are correct, that "the station name is correct, that we have the right color dot, and the travel minutes are correct," McBride said.

Production starts next week. "We want to measure twice and cut once," McBride said.

The biggest increases will be for subway riders who park and travel during the morning and afternoon rushes. The rush-hour base fare is increasing 30 cents, to $1.65 per trip, and the maximum fare is increasing 60 cents, to $4.50. There are no increases for off-peak rail travel or for MetroAccess, the paratransit service for disabled people.

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