The goal, Metro says, is to make back part of the extra costs incurred by running rush-hour levels of service throughout a weekend day or holiday, which require significant overtime costs.
“It’s reflecting the volume of passengers that we have here for those events, and what it takes to meet those passengers' needs, and trying to recoup some of those costs,” Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld said.
The increased special-event fares would range from $2.25 to $6 under present-day rush-hour prices vs. the normal cost of $2 to $3.85 on weekends and holidays. The increase would not affect the cost of taking the bus, which costs $2 at all hours of service. Also, it would not affect prices for late-night or early-morning service that is paid for by private sponsors, such as delaying the closure of stations after Nationals playoffs games.
The committee voted 3 to 0 in favor of the public hearing -- with one abstention from board member Michael Goldman, who was clear in his opposition to the proposal.
“This is a bad idea,” Goldman said. He cited his concerns about how the fare increase would discourage families from coming to the Mall for July 4 festivities, since the difference between the off-peak and peak-period price would potentially be multiplied by four or five family members and significantly add to the cost of travel.
Plus, he said, making money from protests is not a good look.
“I don’t think we should be discouraging people or making it more expensive for them to engage in First Amendment activities,” Goldman said.
Still, he decided not to vote against the proposal because he felt it would be fair to allow Metro to hold a public hearing on the idea and hear directly from customers.
“The results of the public hearing will be overwhelming enough that it will demonstrate that this is a bad idea,” Goldman said.
But his was the lone voice of opposition. Steve McMillin, a board member representing the federal government, said he thinks the proposal is beneficial for area residents whose tax dollars end up financing the bulk of the cost of providing rush-hour levels of service during big protests and public events, even though many of those riders are out-of-towners.
McMillin said that the region’s taxpayers deserve to explore methods to recover some of the costs of playing host to these events of national significance.
“There is a distinction between discretionary trips and a local low-income resident trying to get to their place of work to provide for their families,” McMillin said. “I think we owe it to ourselves and the region to look at opportunities to recoup some small portion of that subsidy."
The public hearing is scheduled for October and will take place at the same time as a hearing on whether to make permanent changes to Metro’s parking fee policy.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the vote that took place on Thursday at a Metro board meeting. The board’s four-person finance committee voted 3-0 to pass the fare increase proposal, with one abstention.