The presidential election isn’t over and Inauguration Day is still months away, but Metro riders can start preparing now. The transit agency’s board of directors approved plans on Thursday that would extend service and hit riders with additional costs.
Trains would run from 4 a.m. until 2 a.m., opening an hour earlier and remaining open two hours later than usual. Inauguration Day is scheduled for Jan. 21, 2013, which is also the federal Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. As a result, trains would normally run on a holiday schedule.
Metro also plans to charge the weekday peak fare from the system’s opening until 9 p.m., with non-peak fares in effect from 9 p.m. until the trains stop running. Another cost for celebrants: The system will charge the normal $5 fee at Metro parking garages, even though it would otherwise be free due to the holiday.
The proposal presented to the Metro board estimated that charging the weekday parking fees on the holiday would generate $260,000.
“It costs a lot to run the system, and that’s one way to collect revenue,” said Metro General Manager Richard Sarles.
Officials are expecting a crowd of between 500,000 and 800,000, a decrease from the 1.5 million riders in 2009. Metro plans to sell commemorative SmarTrip cards and paper farecards, but they are ordering fewer of these cards.
The plan approved by the board called for peak service until 9 p.m. Exact plans for when they will begin winding down peak train service will be solidified after the election, Sarles said.
Sarles also announced that the new SmarTrip dispensers, which were supposed to be up and running in stations as of Sept. 1, have finally been activated. These machines have lurked in boxes and plastic tarps near station entrances, waiting for months while Metro added audio and Braille features required under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The first such machine was activated on Wednesday at New Carrollton, Sarles said. Riders at another 13 stations will be able to use these machines as of Thursday, including the Farragut North, Union Station, Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom stops. The rest will be activated by early November, with more going live by the end of March 2013. The goal is to replace all of the old, less reliable SmarTrip dispensers by the end of June 2013.
Metro’s board also approved standards for rail service on Thursday. The issue created confusion over the summer, but board members said the standards were amended after riders offered input. The rules cover Metro’s hours of service, how often trains will run and how many riders can be on a car.
Sarles said riders won’t notice any change, but it formalizes these practices so the board can asses any changes that might need to be made.