Metro riders will soon be able to exit a station within minutes of entering, without being charged.

The “same station entry/exit grace period” was approved Thursday as part of Metro’s fiscal 2017 budget.  It essentially ends the authority’s policy of charging riders who enter a station and exit it within minutes.

The 15-minute grace period responds to growing complaints from riders who decide to exit a packed station during a breakdown only to find out they have been charged the base rail fare. Currently, riders are charged $1.75 in off-peak hours and $2.15 in peak times when they enter and exit at the same station within minutes.

Riders tend to do this when there is a breakdown, platforms are crowded, and the system is experiencing a meltdown.

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The grace period will go into effect July 1.  It will cost the transit agency close to $200,000 monthly or about $2 million annually, according to Metro.

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The Riders’ Advisory Council, a group that advises Metro on riders’ concerns, recommended that Metro credit the fare back to customers who make a same-station entry/exit within a short period of time. According to Metro, on most weekdays there are a few thousand such transactions, and same-station entry/exit transactions are about 0.5 percent of all rail transactions in a month. But “on a day with severely impacted service the figure may rise to 10,000 or more,” the agency said.

On Thursday, Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld praised the Metro board’s decision to support the new policy, saying that it “is directly responsive to customer feedback.”

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He said, “This is all about refocusing on our customers and recognizing that everything we do should be focused on safety and service reliability.”

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The grace period is in the fiscal budget 2017, approved by the Metro board’s finance committee. The budget tackles the system’s dwindling approval ratings and declining ridership with fare policy changes, and the creation of fare passes that could potentially draw new riders. It has no fare hikes, maintains existing service levels and keeps local subsidies flat.

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