Metro Board Approves Subway, Parking Fee Hikes

Friday, December 13, 2007; 1:14 p.m.
By Lena H. Sun Washington Post Staff Writer

By an overwhelming majority Metro board members approved today the largest increases in subway fares and parking fees in the agency's history after months of contentious debate among directors.

The 8-2 vote came during the board's finance committee meeting and essentially guarantees that the full board will formally adopt the plan at its meeting today following the committee sessions.

The committee approved a plan offered in recent days by Maryland members that lessens the impact on suburban and long-distance riders. That plan followed a public hearing that drew more than 400 comments from riders, many of whom said that proposed fare and fee hikes were too high and not merited by Metro's unreliable service.

For months the public debate has pitted suburban board members who want to keep parking fees and train fares low, against urban members who want to hold down bus fares for low-income riders.

Under the plan adopted by the finance committee the largest increases would affect rush-hour suburban riders who make up the biggest group of daily users. The rush-hour boarding charge would 30 cents to $1.65 per trip, a 22 percent hike. The plan would raise the maximum fare per trip by 60 cents to $4.50. There would be no increases for off-peak riders or for MetroAccess.

At parking lots where the daily fee is as high as $4, the plan calls for a 75-cent hike for six months with an option to increase parking fees by 25 cents after that. Reserve parking would also increase by $10 to $55. That fee is in addition to the daily parking charge. Reflecting sentiment from passengers who park and ride, there would be no increase in the number of reserved parking spaces.

Bus fares would increase a dime for passengers who pay in cash, but would remain $1.25 for riders who pay with electronic SmarTrip cards.

The increases are meant to raise $109 million to help close a projected shortfall in next year's budget. Officials estimate the plan would raise $3-4 million less than the targeted $109 and that some, but not many passengers, would stop riding. Nearly three-fourths of the money would come from the increase in rush-hour train fares, an additional 25 percent from increased parking charges, and 1 percent--about $1 million--from higher bus fares for riders who pay cash.

Although federal workers make up 34 percent of subway riders, Metro receives no federal dollars for its operating costs. Unlike other major transit agencies, it has no dedicated revenue source. Its operating cost is paid by fareboxes, revenue from advertising and parking, and subsidies from local jurisdictions that Metro serves.

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