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Riders prepare for fare hikes

I noticed during my online chat today that riders are starting to focus on fare increases, now less than a week away. We heard about so many potential changes during the winter and spring that it's still tough to sort through what we'll wind up paying for various rides.

Not quite final
One source of some confusion: Is this a done deal? Can we actually calculate what a ride will cost?

Pretty much. The Metro board still must give final approval to the fares on Thursday, but they're extremely unlikely to go back on the deal they worked out in private last month. For one thing, the staffers would rightly throw a fit if the board told them to make changes in all the fare documents and the equipment and software that must be accurate when the changes take effect Sunday.

So look at our Metro fare calculator to see the differences between now and next week. Or go to Metro's Web site and use the Trip Planner, set to a date starting June 27.

Fare phases
So all the basic changes in bus and rail fares will be in effect when you go to work next Monday -- except for one. Because Metro couldn't upgrade its software in time, the new style of fare, the peak of the peak surcharge, won't be part of your payment until Monday, Aug. 1. That 20-cent charge will affect all commuters who ride between 7:30 and 9 a.m. and between 4:30 and 6 p.m.

At the same time, Metrorail riders who use paper Farecards will begin paying a 25-cent surcharge.

Passes
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I am a daily bus rider who purchases Metrobus flash passes at www.wmata.com. I have been a happy customer with this service for five+ years.

Metro's Web site says [Sunday] morning that these passes are not currently available on the Web for purchase and will be available again "by June 28."
-- Gwen Rubinstein, The District

Here's a link to the Metro Web page for online fare purchases. As of today, I don't see any way to buy a bus pass. If I were at Metro, I wouldn't be selling anything at the current price that people could hoard and use when the fares go up. (I always thought that was a legit approach. Maybe it's my New York youth, remembering that the Transit Authority would refuse to say whether the token style would change when the fares went up, to prevent hoarding.)

Metro says it will start to sell passes at the new rate Thursday, just as soon as the board gives final approval to the new rates.

The board vote
I hope that on Thursday, the board members will each take a moment to explain why they've come to this decision, since they didn't do that in open session last month, when they actually made the decision.

And I don't mean: "We hate to increase fares, but we would have hated to cut service more." Fine, fine, fine. You're all Great Americans. I mean, tell us why you think it makes sense to create a peak surcharge, why you're raising fares for the night-owl service and why you're cutting back on the transfer window. You've put your riders through a complicated process over half a year. Tell us why you did what you did.

By Robert Thomson  | June 21, 2010; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  Metro  | Tags:  Dr. Gridlock, Metro budget  
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