Metro will not increase fares or significantly cut subway service to cope with a projected budget squeeze in the next fiscal year, the transit agency’s board of directors decided Thursday.

After weeks of debate about possible fare increases of 5 or 10 cents for rail and bus riders and a reduction in the frequency of trains on five subway lines, the board voted to find another way to balance its budget for the 12 months beginning July 1.

In finalizing a docket for public hearings on the budget proposal, the board unanimously agreed not to include possible fare increases or major service cuts among the revenue and spending items up for discussion.

To impose drastic service reductions or fare increases, the board would have had to first seek public input. By voting to leave those options off the hearing docket, members ended the possibility of fare increases or big service cuts in the next fiscal year.

“We never wanted to go forward with it from the beginning,” board Chairman Mortimer Downey said in an interview after the meeting.

That reluctance seemed particularly acute in recent weeks, since the fatal Jan. 12 incident near the L’Enfant Plaza station in which scores of riders, gasping for air, were caught on a smoke-filled train that stopped in a tunnel during an electrical malfunction on the tracks. One of the passengers was later pronounced dead of smoke inhalation.

With Metro’s revenue projected to be stagnant in the next fiscal year (absent a fare increase), and with Washington-area jurisdictions reluctant to significantly increase their financial contributions to the transit agency, board members had been talking since the fall about possible fare increases and service reductions.

“We had to have a life preserver in case we got to the budget date and the [local jurisdictions] didn’t have the money to do it,” Downey said. “We’d have no way out.”

But board members Thursday decided on a different approach — scaling back the amount of money that the agency plans to spend on capital projects in the next fiscal year, said Downey, who represents the federal government on the eight-member Metro board. Other members represent Maryland, Virginia and the District.

The docket does include proposed service cuts on several Metrobus routes in Maryland. Board members representing Maryland support those changes, which would reduce the financial contributions from Maryland jurisdictions in the next Metro budget.

Downey said the transit agency’s staff also will seek to further cut projected operating expenses, which they have done several times in recent weeks.

“While the final budget vote will come in the spring,” Downey said in a statement, “the board’s action today reflects a continued commitment to further reduce administrative costs and reprogram money from non-safety programs.”

He said the board would “forgo any fare increases or substantial cuts in bus or rail service as we move forward with the adoption of a balanced budget.”

The budget process started publicly in November with a proposed $3.1 billion overall spending plan for the next fiscal year, including $1.3 billion for capital improvements and $1.8 billion for day-to-day operations of the subway and bus systems.

The $1.8 billion operating budget envisioned a $919 million contribution from the eight local counties and cities served by Metro: Montgomery, Fairfax, Arlington and Prince George’s counties, the District and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church.

Board members said $919 million (an 18 percent increase over this fiscal year’s subsidies) was too much to ask for. They ordered Metro’s staff to find spending cuts and in-house revenue increases so that the subsidy request could be reduced.

Metro’s chief financial officer, Dennis Anosike, returned to the board with a reduced budget proposal calling for $877 million in local subsidies.

To cut the proposed subsidies further, by a significant amount, Anosike told the board, Metro would have to increase in-house revenue by imposing fare increases and cut expenses by reducing service on the Red, Orange, Yellow, Green and Silver lines. That was where the discussion stood at the time of the Jan. 12 smoke incident.

By reducing projected administrative costs, and by shifting money from the capital spending plan to the operating budget, Downey said, the board thinks it can reduce the subsidies request to an acceptable level without service cuts or fare increases.

“We have consensus, both here in the agency and from the jurisdictions, that this is the way to do it,” he said.