Metro announced recently that on April 20 it officially will abandon its already unofficially abandoned zone check transfer system that was supposed to catch fare cheaters by requiring riders to leave buses through the front door.

The system, which riders and bus drivers alike did not like from its first few days, "has served its intended purpose of addressing the fare abuse problem," Metro General Manager Richard S. Page said in a memo to the Metro Board.

Just how that was accomplished he did not explain, because the memo said at another point, "The original intent of the zone check was to increase revenues. However, present method of collecting, combining and counting fares has made it empirically impossible to determine how much the zone check has effectively added to revenues."

The system was born when Metro bus officals estimated loosely that they were losing "hundreds of thousands of dollars" to bus riders who transferred from the subway to the bus, then cheated on the fare they owed.

An entry-exit pass was devised whereby the riders would pay a certain fare, the driver would punch the ticket, the rider would ride to his distination, then hand his punched ticket to the driver, who would clear him for departure from the bus.

Problem is, on a loaded rush-hour bus, most riders want to pile out the back door, quickely. Riders complained. Most drivers quickly decided that happiness on the bus was more important than directives from the front office, and stopped locking the back door.

In other matters, the board was told that Metro is studying a request from the One Nation Under God Rally to rent the subway between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. on April 29. The purpose would be to carry ralliers from the Stadium to the Mall. Page said if the service could be provided on a break-even basis, with a paid-in-advance contract, he would provide it.