Metro reviewing fare principles
Riders want the Metro fare system to be simpler and more flexible, said Carol Kissal, Metro's finance chief, reporting to a Metro board committee this morning on the results of focus groups with riders. The board is reviewing what it refers to as its fare principles, the guidelines it tries to follow in setting fares and fare policy.
Other results of the focus groups, according to Kissal:
-- The fare structure is too complicated.
-- Fare charts are difficult to understand
-- Distance-based fares are too complex, although riders supported the concept.
-- The riders didn't like the new peak-of-the-peak surcharge.
-- They do like daily and weekly passes
-- They like SmarTrip but want Metro to make it easier to get cards and add value.
The transit staff is trying to assess the impact of the summertime fare increases. Part of the review will see if the impact suggests that more changes are needed in the overall fare policy.
These are some of the policy changes under consideration:
-- Develop fares so they are easily understandable.
-- Charge fares relative to level of service.
-- Optimize use of the system's capacity.
-- Get the most revenue while getting the maximum ridership.
-- Make it easier for people to move from one transit system to another within the region.
-- Encourage use of cost effective and efficient fare media (SmarTrip cards and fare cards).
-- Ensure fares comply with federal regulations.
The board's finance committee is discussing the proposed changes, and board members are discussing their concerns.
For example, the wording of the proposed policy principle stating that Metro would adjust its fares to the level of service caused some concern for board Chairman Peter Benjamin.
"We don't tie fares to service and we never have," said Benjamin. What he's thinking of is the many riders who ask why they should pay peak fares at times when they think they're not getting Metro's best service.
Catherine Hudgins, chairman of the board's finance committee, said she was not sure the board needed to articulate the way it charges fares in the fare principles. The board committee struck that language in favor of stating the principle that it would "establish equitable fares."
The proposals on changing the fare principles will now be reviewed by the full Metro board. Today's review was not connected to any discussion of increasing fares or modifying them. The board is just taking another look at the guiding principles it wants to apply when it does engage in such discussions.
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