Metro to Charge Peak Fares and $4 Parking Fee on Inauguration Day

By Lena H. Sun
Friday, December 19, 2008

Metro will charge customers rush hour fares on Inauguration Day and require people to pay $4 to park at station lots, the transit agency announced yesterday. The agency will also expand rush-hour service to 17 hours on Jan. 20 -- from 4 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The Metro board approved the measures yesterday at the recommendation of General Manager John B. Catoe Jr., who sought the fares and fees to help offset higher anticipated costs.

Agency officials had initially said they would charge off-peak fares and would not charge for parking that day. Normally on federal holidays, off-peak fares are charged, and parking at Metro facilities is free. Metro officials said they decided to charge more because of higher expenses associated with moving large crowds, expected to be at least 1 million.

The agency does not have a final cost estimate for its inauguration-related service, but managers anticipate increased maintenance, electricity and overtime costs. Catoe plans to request reimbursement from the federal government.

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

The $4 parking fee is less than the usual parking charge at most Metro lots, which ranges from $4.25 to $4.75.

The cash will be collected upon entry. No SmarTrip payments will be allowed, officials said.

Of Metro's 60,000 parking spaces, at least 40,000 will be available for private vehicles. Metro will set aside parking for about 1,200 of the 10,000 charter buses that planners are expecting. The Greenbelt station (Prince George's County) on the Green Line and Van Dorn Street (Fairfax County) and Morgan Boulevard (District) -- at opposite ends of the Blue Line -- will be charter-bus-only parking. Three other lots -- Vienna and West Falls Church on the Orange Line (Fairfax County) and Shady Grove (Montgomery County) on the Red Line -- will allow cars and charter buses.

Charter buses will not be allowed to park in Metro lots or elsewhere in the District unless they pre-register at Metro will charge a yet-to-be set fee for charter buses parking at its lots.

Metro's commemorative one-day pass will be sold for $10 online and $7.80 at Metro sales offices and fare vending machines. On Jan. 20, the cost will be $10 at all sales locations. Metro is encouraging people to buy the one-day passes and commemorative electronic SmarTrip fare cards in advance.

Metro will also prohibit bicycles during the four-day period.

Paper Transfer Phaseout

With Metro and many regional bus agencies planning to eliminate paper bus-to-bus transfers starting Jan. 4, concern is growing among some social service agencies about the ability of some low-income bus riders to switch to using only the electronic SmarTrip fare cards.

The transit agency has given 50,000 SmarTrip cards to government agencies for free distribution to low-income riders in the jurisdictions served by Metro. But more than 20,000 cards have yet to be distributed, officials said. It was unclear yesterday whether social service agencies were unaware of the upcoming deadlines or whether their clients were refusing to accept the cards.

But representatives of Bread for the City and Miriam's Kitchen, two nonprofits that help vulnerable District residents, said many of their clients with mental illnesses would not be able to hold on to a fare card. Homeless shelter residents' possessions are often stolen, they said, and those with mental illnesses may have a hard time using the cards.

In response to Catoe's request for more free cards, the Metro board yesterday authorized the agency to provide up to 50,000 additional free SmarTrip cards, at a cost of about $250,000.

When Metro eliminates paper transfers, only riders using SmarTrip -- which includes senior SmarTrip cards -- or weekly bus passes will get free transfers between buses within a three-hour window. Otherwise, riders who transfer will pay two full fares. A bus ride costs $1.25 with SmarTrip and $1.35 with cash.

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