Rush-Hour Fares Proposed for Jan. 20

Jan. 20 is a federal holiday, and normally Metro would charge off-peak fares. But because large crowds are expected and the system plans to operate from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m., the agency wants to charge peak fares from 4 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Jan. 20 is a federal holiday, and normally Metro would charge off-peak fares. But because large crowds are expected and the system plans to operate from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m., the agency wants to charge peak fares from 4 a.m. to 7 p.m. (By Kevin Clark -- The Washington Post)
Buy Photo
By Lena H. Sun
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Metro is proposing to charge rush-hour fares on Inauguration Day and regular parking fees at its lots. Normally on federal holidays, off-peak fares are charged, and parking at Metro facilities is free.

In a radio interview yesterday, Metro General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. said the transit agency will recommend the fare and fee change to its board tomorrow. The decision will be made by the board, he said.

Agency officials had initially said they would charge off-peak fares Jan. 20. But given the large crowds expected, with estimates ranging from at least 1 million people to as many as 4 million, Metro will be running unprecedented rush-hour service for 15 consecutive hours on Inauguration Day, from an early opening at 4 a.m. until 7 p.m. The agency is also staying open until 2 a.m.; the normal weekday closing time is midnight.

"These are going to be very high expenses for the Metro system," Catoe said on WTOP radio. "We shouldn't minimize the impact."

Charging rush-hour fares will help the agency cover some of its costs for the day. "We will ask the federal government to reimburse us for any difference between the fares and the cost of operating the services," he said.

A one-way off-peak trip from Shady Grove, at one end of the Red Line in Montgomery County, to Gallery Place-Chinatown in downtown Washington costs $2.35. The same trip costs $4.50 during rush hour.

Metro also has parking at 42 of its 86 stations, mostly in the suburbs. Parking is free on weekends and federal holidays, but agency officials said they are proposing that users pay the regular fee to help offset the cost of hiring a contractor to oversee parking that day. Fees range from $4.25 to $4.75.

In a departure from policy, customers will be able to pay for parking with cash as well as Metro's electronic SmarTrip card, Catoe said later in an interview.

Of the nearly 60,000 parking spaces available at Metro lots, Catoe said some would be set aside for about 1,200 charter buses. The final number of charter buses to be parked at stations is still being worked out. Metro plans to leave more than 40,000 spaces available for non-charter-bus parking, he said.

Secret Service and other officials estimate that about 10,000 charter buses will be coming to the Washington area. Metro and regional officials have been trying to work out specifics, including possible drop-off points near the Mall and shuttle bus service between RFK Stadium and FedEx Field to the Mall.

Catoe urged visitors and people who have to go to work that day to brace for huge crowds and long delays and to avoid driving. If local businesses can close for the day, that might be wise, he said. Otherwise, employers should allow extra time to receive deliveries and for employees to arrive at work. "This will be a crowd bigger than any crowd we've ever had by a magnitude of three to four," he said. "Anyone who has to come to work that day, leave one hour before you normally leave."

For those living in the District, Catoe suggested taking buses instead of the subway, because trains will be so crowded with passengers coming in from the end-of-the-line stations. Those living within two to three miles of the Mall should walk, if possible, he said. Riders should check Metro's Web site to see whether bus routes will be detoured because of last-minute street closures.

Catoe said Virginia transportation officials are considering designating a bus-only corridor on Interstate 66 and other yet-to-be determined highways. The Memorial Bridge will be restricted to pedestrians and emergency vehicles. The 14th Street and Roosevelt bridges will be restricted to bus and authorized vehicles. No decision has been made about the Key Bridge.

Catoe also said the Metro system would not stay open round-the-clock on Inauguration Day because personnel would not be able to maintain equipment for reliable operation. Metro board member Jim Graham, a D.C. Council member whose district includes many nightclubs and restaurants, had asked whether Metro could extend its operating hours. The council has passed legislation allowing establishments with liquor licenses to stay open extended hours.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company