Some naysayers, myself included, have suggested that Metro has a complicated fare structure. But it's not really as complicated as it sometimes seems. It took the Metro staff just four pages of a pocket-sized brochure (pictured above) to outline its higher fares that will take effect April 16.

The brochure explains the off-peak and peak-hour subway fares; the bus fares, off-peak and peak-hour, in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia, and crossing the boundaries between them; the surcharges and special fares on some routes; the transfer procedures (which differ from bus to rail, rail to bus and bus to bus) and the different levels of extra fares a rider must pay in the various jurisdictions to make such transfers; the seven different kinds of flash passes; the student fares that exist in the District but not elsewhere, and the discounts one can earn by buying certain (but not all) fares in bulk.

The flash passes deserve special attention. As a regular transit user, I embraced these fare devices when they were introduced. But then Metro's directors messed up a good thing: they separated the D.C., Virginia and Maryland passes and for me, at least, reduced the benefits of their purchase to zilch. A good idea that seemed to work was sacrificed to serve Metro's phenomenal provincialism.

Where does one get the "Metro News" folder that we illustrate? At subway stations, ticket outlets and aboard most buses. But the other night I boarded bus 2593 on the No. 4 line, encountered a poster saying riders would find the pamphlet in the "take one" dispenser aboard the bus. But that bus, and others in its class, don't have "take one" dispensers.