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Metro riders, dig deeper: Fare surcharge begins Sunday

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Robert Thomson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 28, 2010

You'll have to starting Sunday if you want to ride Metro. This is the first time the transit authority has imposed a temporary surcharge on its passengers to patch a budget gap. The Metro board approved it Jan. 28 to raise about $9.6 million over four months and help close what the board expected would be a $40 million gap in the budget for July 2009 through June 2010.

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On Thursday, the board and the transit authority staff reviewed exactly when the surcharge would end. It will be when the last train and bus trips are done early on the morning of June 27. This was important to establish, because when regular service resumes that morning, the surcharge probably will be replaced by a permanent fare increase to balance the budget for the year starting July 1.

Although the size of that permanent fare increase hasn't been determined, some increase seems inevitable, so the transit authority wanted to ensure a smooth transition at the fareboxes and gates.

For now, here's a look at how the surcharge will affect Metro riders as well as passengers on some of the suburban transit lines:

Impact on riders

The nice thing is that there's not much to remember, compared with some more complex restructurings of fares and fees in recent years. Most regular commuters will see the value of their SmarTrip cards or Farecards decline 20 cents a day faster. There's no extra adjustment based on distance traveled or time of day. There's no impact on fees at Metro lots and garages.

There were, however, several revisions in the surcharge plan that the board adopted Jan. 28. These changes were made to comply with federal law and local agreements:

-- Seniors and people with disabilities will pay a five-cent surcharge on Metrobus and Metrorail trips.

-- The price of the D.C. student 10-trip Farecard will rise to $8.50, rather than $8.80.

-- The price of the D.C. student tokens 10-pack will be $6.75, rather than $6.85.

Suburban Transit

The Metro surcharge affects the price of using several suburban transit systems that have linked their fares to Metro's.

Ride On

Montgomery County's Ride On bus system will change its fares Monday.

Changes include an increase of 10 cents per trip, whether paying with cash or SmarTrip, but there are several other adjustments:

-- The cost of transferring from Metrorail to Ride On will increase 10 cents.

-- The price of a Ride On Day Pass will rise from $3 to $3.20.

-- The express route fare for Route 70 (Milestone in Germantown to Bethesda) will rise 10 cents.

Fairfax Connector

The region's other large suburban bus service, the Fairfax Connector, will start charging 10 cents more on Sunday, whether riders pay with cash or SmarTrip. Fares for seniors and people with disabilities will go from 60 cents to 65 cents. The surcharge will not be added to the express fares for routes 380D, 595 and 597.

TLC increases

VRE, MARC and the Maryland commuter buses offer a monthly pass called a Transit Link Card. The card also is good for rides on Metro. Because Metro is adding the 10-cent per-trip surcharge, Maryland and Virginia will add $4 to the cost of the monthly TLC.

-- Robert Thomson


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