A Metro Board committee ignored yesterday a proposal by General Manager Richard S. Page to simplify Metro's Byzantine bus fare and forged forward with a complex new set of fare proposals.
The committee, which consists of most of the Metro Board members, is devising a package of fare increases that will be proposed at public hearings before they go into effect July 1. They had instructed Page to see what he could do to simplify Metro's fares.
So Page and fare specialist Bob Pickett offered something yesterday that was relatively easy to understand: a 50-cent across-the-board fare for D.C. riders; a 70-cent across-the-board fare for suburban riders with standardized regionwide zone-crossing charges of 25 cents. That may sound complicated, but it's simple compared to what Metro now has.
The board dismissed it in less than 30 minutes. "Virginia wants to stay with its own proposal," said Arlington County board member Dorothy Grotos.
Page tried to make his case. Metro's present fares, he said, "make it difficult for us to market transit. The fares are confusing to the public, to our staff and to our telephone operators. I know the primary goal has to be revenue, but I want to keep reminding you of the advantages of simplification." Page emphasized he was not opposed to fare increases, he just wanted them to be understandable.
Virginia's proposal is a model of the kind of thing Page is trying to avoid. It is actually three different fare schedules, offering a variety of different possibilities for riders (and bus drivers) to try to understand.
All the Virginia proposals represent substantial increases. The present Virginia minimum rush-hour fare of 55 cents would be increased to either 60 or 75 cents, depending on the proposal. Additional ajustments or increases would be made in the zone-crossing charges.One proposal would eliminate the present discount for rail-to-bus transfers and charge full fares at all times.
Some version of these proposals will be adopted by the Metro board after public hearings.
The committee left unresolved for the entire board next week the questions of what fare schedules will apply to Maryland and to District of Columbia bus riders.
A tentative proposal would increase the Maryland minimum rush-hour bus fare from 55 cents to 60 cents. The District of Columbia wants to retain the present rush-hour bus-only fare of 50 cents, but is considering suggesting a possible increase in the non-rush-hour fare from 40 cents to 50 cents. The 40-cent fare is nine years old.
The committee agreed several weeks ago to consider two new subway fare proposals -- one that would increase costs about 11 percent, the other about 22 percent. Only after the board agrees on final fare schedules will it be possible to compute the costs for individual transit users.
Also yesterday, the committee discussed the possibility of increasing the number of two-week passes, called "flash passes."
Page and his marketing director John Warrington, opposed the increase on the grounds that it was difficult enough to explain to riders which of the three passes they should buy; it would be more difficult to explain more passes.
District of Columbia Transportation Director Douglas Schneider disagreed saying that an individual transit rider could quickly figure out which pass fit his needs.
The central issue in all of this is revenue. Each of Metro's eight jurisdictions wants to raise differing amounts of revenue from fares, and thus proposes different fare schedules and pass schemes for its residents.
Metro is facing a $126.4 million operating subsidy that must be financed by local governments.