Raising Bus and train fares is never appealing. But when the increased cost helps to ensure that Metro will be there in the future, the fare hike takes on a different look. That is the case with Mayor Barry's proposal to raise bus and subway fares in the city by 5 cents in 1981. The increase is part of a package -- including revenues for newly installed taxes -- that should ensure that the District has enough money to pay its share of the area's Metro bus and rail bill for both operation and construction. A "reliable source of funding" to pay for Metro is required of local jurisdictions by Congress as acondition for completion of the subway system.
While there is no question of the need for some increase in fares, the proper distribution for the increase is far less clear. Instead of adding a nickel to both the current rush-hour fare (55 cents) and non-rush-fare (50 cents), the District government might consider increasing rush-hour fares by a dime or more. Then non-rush-hour fares could be kept at current levels or even reduced. That would place the burden of the added fares on working people while shoppers, people moving around town and people looking for work paid less. An added benefit might be that the lower non-rush-hour fare would increase non-rush-hour ridership of trains and buses bringing in even more money for Metro.
But whatever the method, the need foradded money to enable the city to pay Metro cannot be disputed. Currently, local governments in the area subsidize each rider on buses and trains. The highest subsidy per fare is 69 percent (in Prince George's County) and the lowest is 52 percent (in Arlington). In the District, 57 percent of each rider's fare is underwritten by the city government. Subsidies of that size forpublic transportation are fine, but they cannot continue without strong financial support. There have to be taxes earmarked for public transportation, but riders have to pay some of the tab, too. It would be unfair to allow fares to continue at a rate that does not reflect the ever-higher cost of public transportation. When the city councils returns from its summer recess,it should approve the mayor's proposal to increase the fares.