A new effort was begun last week to stop a Metro requirement of additional fares for passengers who transfer from buses to subways and to roll back a 10-cent rush hour bus fare increase that went into effect July 1.
Nine members of the D.C. City Council, long-time freeway opponent Sammie Abbot and several community organization representatives asked the U.S. Court of Appeals to order metro to abandon both actions. The appeal follows U.S. District Court Judge June Green's June 30 decision to reject a plea to postpone the fare increase. The group contends that the fare increase and the bus-train system are unfairly hitting D.C. riders harder than they are anyone else.
The group also wants the court to require new hearings on the coordinated bus and rail systems, which went into operation Sept. 6.
For many riders - nearly all riders in the District - the cost of a round trip to work in the bus-train system is 30 or 40 cents more than a bus-only trip. For many persons living in suburban Maryland and Virginia, the cost is the same or even 10 cents less.
"The crazy quilt fare system has, in effect, lowered costs for Maryland and Virginia riders, but has increased and even doubled the cost for D.C. riders," said D.C. City Council member Wilhelmina J. Rolark (D-eight). "Are city dwellers subsidizing the suburbanites? Are the poor subsidizing the rich?"
The major reason for the differences in fares is that while the suburban jurisdictions have gradually been increasing their bus fares to absorb the eventual changeover to the bus-rail system, the city has not.
There had been no increase in D.C. bus fares for seven years prior to the July 1 raise. That policy could not be continued under the bus-rail system without allowing people to transfer onto the trains free.
That is not possible now, because the farecard machines that allow entry to Metro trains are not technically equipped to take transfers.
Abbot said the request for new hearings on the bus-rail transfer system were required because during the hearings held prior to its implementation, there was little discussion of the fact that some fares would be raised and others lowered once the new system went into effect.
When the fare increase and bus-train system was adopted by the Metro board at its May 19 meeting, both D.C. representatives Jerry A. Moore (R-at large) and Transportation Director Douglas N. Schneider - voted for it.
Schneider was representing Mayor Walter E. Washington, who seldom attends Metro board meetings, and Moore, the chairman of the Council's transportation committee, was standing in for Council Chairman Sterling Tucker, who frequently attends meetings but missed that one.
At the time the vote was taken, a resolution that would have required both of the city's representatives to vote against the fare increase was languishing in Moore's committee. The resolution's sponsor, Marion Barry (D-at large), was unable to get it discharged from the committee, even though he was able to get eight Council members to join him in opposing the fare increase.
At last week's press conference, Barry and Rolark acknowledged that the Council had underestimated the impact of the Metro changes. "I don't think that many of the Council members aware of the seriousness of this matter and the inconveniences it would cause," Barry said.
But he blamed the lack of awareness on the Council's Metro representatives, contending that they had failed to properly inform their colleagues.
Barry said he is not sure that the resolution which would bind city representatives to vote a certain way is even legal.
The Metro board voted the fare increase in part to reduce the amount of money being paid by its member jurisdictions to subsidize operations. When asked where the city would get money for increased payments if the fare increase were rolled back, Barry, chairman of the Council's finance and revenue committee, said, "It's not my responsibility to figure out the intricacies of Metro financing."