A Metro Board committee recommended yesterday that bus riders be prohibited from paying fares with dollar bills -- a move that it said would save the $180,000 a year it now costs to unfold, count and guard the paper money.
The proposal, which appears to have a good chance of being adopted soon by the full board, drew cries of outrage from bus riders interviewed in suburban Virginia, where higher zone fares have pushed the cost of a fare for many commuters beyond $1.
"I don't want to carry all that heavy change around," complained James Galloway of Fairfax City, who pays $1.15 to ride a bus to the Pentagon.
Carlos Bonilla of West Springifled, who commutes to the Navy Annex in Arlington and also pays $1.15 for each trip, said it would "definitely cause a problem to use all coins because half the time I have to go around searching for change as it is."
Bus driver Russell Stewart, a 30-year veteran who works on the No. 17 line between Fairfax and the Pentagon, said at least 70 percent of his passengers use paper money regularly.
"It's easier for them to roll up a dollar bill and 15 cents rather than to carry a whole bunch of change around," Steward said. He added that some riders use a dollar bill when they don't have the 85 cents in exact change need for a two-zone ride in Virginia.
Although dollar bills would be banned throughout the Metrobus system, the change would be noticed most in Virginia, where a rush-hour trip across Arlington County costs $1. The maximum Virginia bus fare into Washington is $1.45.
In Maryland, only a few long-distance trips, such as from Gaithersburg to Washington, cost as much as $1.10.
The District of Columbia has a maximum fare of 50 cents during rush hour and 40 cents at other times. Anthony Rachal, an assistant director of the D.C. Transpotation Department, said many riders double up in paying fares with dollar bills, since few storekeepers are willing to provide change to those who don't make purchases.
Walter F. (Ski) Slovikosky, Metor's assitant treasurer, said almost all the 30,000 pieces of paper currency collected on Metrobuses each weekday are wadded up by passengers before being stuffed through slots on the fare boxes. He said these must be individually flattened, sorted and packaged by six clerks who do little else. Other Metro workers guard and transport the bills.
Coins are handled almost totally by machines. So is the paper money in subway farecard, vending machines, which would not be affected by the restriction.
The estimated $180,000 saving from barring paper money was a small part of nearly $9 million in spending cuts during Metro's 1980-81 fiscal year recommended to the full board yesterday by the budget committee. The other proposals include using a lower and cheaper grade of diesel fuel, a freeze on hiring for administrative jobs, restrictions on overtime pay and a controversial percent limitation on the total expenditure for cost-of-living pay increases for all employes, including unionized bus and subway personnel.
Metro now is negotiating a new contract with its main employes' union, which wants to keep a provision to guarantee periodic wage increases equal to the full rise in the U.S. consumer price index. The latest increase was at an annual rate of 18 percent.
Cleatus E. Barnett, Metro board chairman, said the agency must be prepared to tell its employes that its resources, including subsidies contributed by the region's taxpayers, are not unlimited.
The operating subsidies as a result of the cuts recommended yesterday would be $107 million, down from the original proposal of $116 million.Another $11.4 million would be needed to pay interest on subway construction bonds.
The board was ready to adopt the recommended budget yesterday, but delayed action for two weeks when Fairfax County director Joseph Alexander protested the paper money ban. That prohibition, he said, would produce "more of a hassle than any fare raise."
Alexandria Mayor Charles E. Beatley Jr., and alternate director, suggested that riders might use the new Susan B. Anthony dollar, or that Metro might adopt and sell a token coin. (Metro already sells books of commuter tickets in various denominations, including $1.)
Jerry A. Moore Jr., a D.C director, said the Anthony dollar is easily confused with the 25-cent coin that forms part of most current cash fares. And subway vending machines are not equipped to handle the Anthony dollar.
In other matters, the Metro Board:
Approved the fare-free special operation of the subway from 3 to 5 a.m. on Tuesday, April 29, to carry participants from a Washington rally for Jesus at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium to the Smithsonian, station on the Mall. The full cost, $25,000 will be paid by One Nation Under God Inc., sponsor of the rally.
Decided that wool carpeting in subway cars will not be replaced by vinyl flooring, as had been suggested earlier. Officials said they will step up the routine cleaning of the carpeting. CAPTION: Picture, These cost the Metro transit system $180,000 a year to unfold, flatten, guard, package and transport. By Ken Feil -- The Washington Post