Metro General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. today presented board members four options to raise subway and bus fares, with increases ranging from 20 to 40 cents on the metrorail boarding charge, depending on when the hikes are put into effect.

Metro officials say higher fares are needed to help close a projected shortfall in next year's budget.

Metrobus rides, currently a flat $1.25, would increase 25 cents, and parking fees, typically $3.50-$4 at many suburban lots would go up 50 cents, regardless of the timetable. Metrorail fares vary by the time of day and distance of the trip. Metro officials are also planning to increase costs for those who take longer trips.

If an increase goes into effect in January, one proposal calls for a 20-cent increase in the subway boarding charge to $1.55, from the current $1.35, a 15 percent increase. The maximum rush-hour fare would jump 60 cents to $4.50. The off-peak maximum fare would rise 20 cents to $2.55, from $2.35.

A second option for a January hike would increase the subway fare 25 cents. The maximum rush-hour fare would be $4.50 and the off-peak maximum fare would be $2.60.

Under the January options, for example, a rush hour trip from Vienna to Metro Center on the Orange Line would increase 75 cents to $4.30, a 21 percent increase. A rush-hour trip from Largo Town Center to Metro Center would go from $2.95 to $3.40, up 15 percent.

The other two proposals call for a hike in July and would mean either an increase of 35 cents or 40 cents in the subway boarding charge. The difference in the proposals takes into account the number of riders who may stop riding Metro when fares increase. If the fare hikes are put into effect in January, officials are estimating a drop of 2 to 3.6 percent in ridership.

Board members said they want to get more detailed information before they would begin substantive discussions or even authorize starting the public hearing process.

Catoe has said he is pushing for the price increase to ensure that Metro has enough money to operate for the fiscal year that ends in June 2009.

Rider advocacy groups have criticized the decision-making process, the push to put a fare increase into effect so early and the lack of public input. I. Michael Snyder, chairman of the Metro-appointed Riders' Advisory Council, has said that although many riders recognize the need for an increase, the higher rates should be pegged to increases in wages, and indexed fare hikes should be tied to a performance indicator or customer-servicemeasure.