A CHEER AND A BOO for Metro, which has just approved a package deal for riders: Sunday subway service-along with a schedule of higher bus and rail fares that continues to be the most complicated in the United States. The way it will work, you'll be able to ride the subway to church or the Redskins-but for the rest of the week you won't know what to pay to get to work (or back, which is another set of calculations). One glimpse at those logarithm tables that Metro is passing off as fare schedules is enough to scare off even the most seasoned traveler, not to mention the poor tourist who dares to venture anywhere near the system.
Presumably, Metro's bus drivers will be thoroughly programmed to provide cheerful, accurate assistance for all who wish to board with their required exact fares; and as always, there will be swarms of subway station attendants at the ready during rush hours to explain that the minimum fare is 45 cents for three miles; that each additional mile costs 9.5 cents; that a transfer from subway to bus requires a card before you get on the train and dime when you get on the bus if it's in the suburbs, plus the appropriate zone charges for that ride, none of which is applicable if you're going the other way from bus to subway . . .
Still under consideration at Metro is another brilliant fare-collection plan designed to cut down on what bus drivers report is widespread fare evasion by suburban riders (which of course assumes that the riders know the fares). The proposed solution would be to require riders to have their papers in order at all times-to keep their transfers and surrender them to the driver for checking before they get off. This, of course, would require locking the back doors. And it's another in a series of bad ideas.
Producing a simple fare structure for this region-in which the different jurisdictions have conflicting fare philosophies-is difficult, as any of the officials who have been meeting on this matter for the last six months can attest. But wouldn't it improve ridership and save administrative costs? This latest insane math-with-no-bottom-line is just another way to repel that would-be mass transit user whom Metro keeps trying to woo so ineptly.