D.C. City Council member Marion Barry returned to an personal battleground this week with an official proposal to block a planned hike of the Metrobus city fare to 50 cents during rush hours.
Barry, who gained some of his earliest public attention in 1965 as a foe of higher bus fares, introduced a resolution in the City Council Tuesday labeling the proposed new rise from 40 cents a short-sighted and potentially disastrous move for the publicly owned transit system.
The new fares would apply only from 6 to 9:30 a.m. and from 3 to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays. The current 40-cent fare would remain at other times.
Barry's resolution, if approved, would call upon the District members of the Metro board to veto any city fare increase, including the one proposed by a Metro board committee on Jan. 27. Public hearings by Metro are scheduled for next month.
Without at least one supporting vote from a District representative on the Metro board, the fare increase would die. The City Council resolution itself would not be legally binding, but would almost surely be influential since two Council members also serve on the Metro board.
Barry, in his resolution, said the pressure for the 50-cent rush hour fare "is an imposition by the U.S. Congress of suburban (auto-oriented) values into urban D.C. transportation system."
As he did in 1965, Barry contended higher fares would disproportionately affect low-income blacks, and would drive away bus patronage.
He cited figures from other big cities to show that "additional metrobus subsidies would be warranted according to national transportation practices, not less subsidies as ordered by the U.S. Congress."