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Creating a Fair Fare

If the Metro board winds up approving the fare increases that its staff is proposing today, I'd hate to be the designer who has to figure out how to get all that information onto the signs in the stations.

This new fare structure, reported in The Post today by Lena Sun, is the most interesting aspect of the transit authority's effort to close its budget gap. In fact, the staff study of the fare structure began separately, as a strategic review of the fare policy.

It's possible that this review should have remained a separate effort. Metro will be trying to sell a complicated new concept in fares at the same time its trying to sell the basic idea that Metro needs a lot more money.

Riders are bound to be angry about the fare increase, which would be the third in this decade. Metro board members must know they're going to hear from those riders about every dingy carpet, every busted escalator and every dimly lit station before they vote on the fare increases and service cuts the staff proposed. Also, a big part of the budget shortfall has to do with financing raises and the pensions for Metro employees, so they'll be hearing about every surly station master and unhelpful customer assistance rep.

People will be cranked up pretty good by the time they get down to studying the new fare structure. Might it have been possible to propose a fare restructuring independently of this year's effort to close a large budget gap?

Fare increases are as political as tax increases. The first Metro fare increase of this decade went down relatively easily for the transit authority, because many riders knew it followed a long period without a hike. Also, it was pretty simple to understand: The fares were going up.

This fare plan is much more complicated and every aspect of it will get picked apart. Riders already inclined to think the whole thing is unfair will be looking at the peak and off peak rates and the downtown congestion zone and the break for using SmarTrip electronic farecards and wondering if they're in a category that's being singled out for an extra smashing by the transit authority.

It makes a lot of sense to restructure the fare system to take advantage of new technology, to get the best use out of our trains and buses, to maintain ridership and to cut operating costs. The region's highway planners are similarly looking at new technologies to add extra lanes and ease congestion during peak periods.

But the logic behind Metro's fare restructuring is likely to get lost this year in a battle of rider vs. rider and everyone against Metro.

Given the complexity of the plan, it might take you a while to sort out how much of a fare increase you'd be paying to ride, but once you've got that figured out, share your take on the Metro plan with us. I'm sure we'll be talking about this through the springtime.

By Robert Thomson  |  December 14, 2006; 8:11 AM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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Even with the increased fares, Metro is still going to be a lot cheaper than driving and parking downtown. Maybe those that do drive downtown should pay a congestion tax that is dedicated to transit.

Posted by: MetroRider | December 14, 2006 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Since I live in Dupont Circle, I guess I'm supposed to walk to the Woodley Park Metro in order to avoid the 35 cent congestion surcharge, and tell my bosses that I'll be coming into work at 10:00am! How does an idiotic plan like this even get air time? They are charging a surcharge for, basically, anyone that lives anywhere downtown and gets on the metro there. Unbelievable.

Posted by: Dupont Denizen | December 14, 2006 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Some folks will have to pay $12 round trip. That is a ridiculous $60/week, which adds up to an even more ridiculous $240/month for UNRELIABLE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION. A used car starts to look pretty attractive at these prices.

Posted by: Metro will NOT be cheaper! | December 14, 2006 9:34 AM | Report abuse

I don't consider Metro cheaper as it is. I may pay more in raw dollars to drive, but the value of my time matters to me, and driving wins out easily. From just outside the Beltway it's usually a half-hour drive, whereas by Metro it's an hour to drive to the stop, walk to the platform, wait for the train to leave, ride downtown, and walk to the office, and that's assuming that there are no delays on the trains. The convenience of driving (and having the flexibility to run errands on the way home--I often stop at the grocery store) outweighs the slightly cheaper transit.

I find the "congestion charge" idea on a subway system absolutely ludicrous, though. A subway system is SUPPOSED to get crowded. It's the INTENT of a subway system that the crowds will gravitate to it to avoid the traffic. I think that idea will cause a HUGE uproar.

Posted by: Rich | December 14, 2006 9:42 AM | Report abuse

I don't really have a problem with changing the fares so that you get a discount with SmarTrip versus a paper fare card. What I do have a problem with is the increase in general. It is getting very expensive to commute via metro and a change like this certainly makes me not want to use metro anymore. I will most likely see my commuting costs go up by at least $3 a day between the fares and parking. That is a gallon of gas right there!

Their idea of increasing rates during the peak period could be done better though. Most people aren't going to have the flexibility to leave for work after the peak metro hours. They would have been better off charging more for people that are riding during the peak of the peak hours. If you can shift these people a couple hours earlier or later by using a cheaper fair then everyone wins.

I guess I just can't see how with increasing ridership they need even higher fares. Let's face it...we have one of the highest fares in the country if not the highest and this increase just seems excessive with all the mismanagement that we have seen in the past. Everyone knows there are places they could cut costs but no one at metro wants to take a hard look at it and make some decisions. As for the raise that managers are getting...where do I sign up? I sure haven't gotten a 5% raise over the past several years.

Posted by: Razor04 | December 14, 2006 9:42 AM | Report abuse

OK, I see that "drive, drive," in my past post. That's not what I typed, and it's not the first time I've seen that happen. The blog software is apparently repeating words. What the hell is going on?

Posted by: Rich | December 14, 2006 9:43 AM | Report abuse

the fare plan looks to be one that discourages workday transit into the urban core. which seems an odd choice- metro is afterall predominantly a commuter service.

i have to wonder if the pricing schema was derived by figuring 'how much can we increase without driving riders away'... and that 'urban core riders' are the ones with the least flexibility to opt out (whereas the all important ride from vienna to ballston is unaffected).

what i don't see here is an effort to intensify service in the areas where ridership is highest.

for instance... why not some sort of 'fare free zone' akin to the bus transfer system. this is related to the long standing 'pedestrian walkway' between farragut north and west or between metro center and if i could leave the metro system, re-enter at another stop, and have my fare unaffected, i could: use metro, reduce congestion, not cost metro a dime vs. status quo.

just saying... what is the desire/ point of these fare changes?

Posted by: tegwar | December 14, 2006 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Is the system really that crowded at 5am in the morning? Why not delay morning peak until 5:30am or 6:00am and encourage riders to get on board early and beat the rush. Surely being able to avoid peak fares morning *and* evening would reduce some of the load during those peak times.

The extra charge for 'peak' stations is preposterous - especially for Union Station. These riders are already doing their part by taking VRE and MARC, and now they're going to be penalized for their decisions. When several commuter trains arrive at or near the same time, Union Station can't accommodate the influx of riders on either the escalators or platform -- if the extra charge could be used to alleviate some of the inherent bottlenecks in Union Station, perhaps people would be more willing to be gouged.

Posted by: Zizzy | December 14, 2006 10:05 AM | Report abuse

I completely agree with Dupont Denizen. In addition, trying to "push" people to hours outside of rush hour isn't going to work too well when the frequency of the off-peak trains pretty much stinks. Yesterday at Dupont I was 12 minutes for a train before 1000am! Of course the next train was only 1 minute behind it. If Metro makes the off-peak trains slightly more frequent or spaced out better, it might not be so bad.

Posted by: Dupont commuter | December 14, 2006 10:06 AM | Report abuse

In general I'm OK with the fare increase; everything goes up eventually. The SmarTrip discount is overdue -- they should definitely give people incentive to use those. I do have a bit of a problem with the surcharge at the core stations, but I think what will happen is that it won't be approved this time -- they're just floating the idea so we can vent about it now, and be more willing to accept it down the road.

Posted by: Cosmo | December 14, 2006 10:09 AM | Report abuse

In general I'm OK with the fare increase; everything goes up eventually. The SmarTrip discount is overdue -- they should definitely give people incentive to use those. I do have a bit of a problem with the surcharge at the core stations, but I think what will happen is that it won't be approved this time -- they're just floating the idea so we can vent about it now, and be more willing to accept it down the road.

Posted by: Cosmo | December 14, 2006 10:10 AM | Report abuse

(Sorry -- got an error message the first time!)

Posted by: Cosmo | December 14, 2006 10:11 AM | Report abuse

That's a great idea, tegwar. I imagine of a lot of crowding could be alleviate when people don't have to ride between the stations you mentioned. If they can't do that, then build the tunnels already!

Posted by: Zizzy | December 14, 2006 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, people. Stay on your crowded, expensive Metro cars with smelly loudmouth students, and I'll be passing you in my gleaming car where I can have the radio on as loud as I darn well please.

Posted by: Bye bye, Metro! | December 14, 2006 10:17 AM | Report abuse

If I'm reading this correctly, my 5 stop, inner-city metro commute (Rhode Island Ave to Metro Center) will increase a minimum of $1 a day! That's insane.

I understand that Metro needs to be creative in trying to find funding for itself (since VA isn't going to step up to the plate for their share anytime soon), but this is unbelievable.

I have to wonder if this isn't just a ploy to get the local jurisdictions to finally agree to a dedicated funding source.

Posted by: ShawnDC | December 14, 2006 10:22 AM | Report abuse

I wonder how much of this proposal is really an attempt to make people so angry that they will tell thier representatives in the state legislature to get off the can and do something about getting a dedicated funding stream for METRO. Especially those idiots in the Virginia legislature who can't put the needs of their constituients over their "political ideals" and let the folks in NVA vote on tax increases etc.

Posted by: Robert Johnston | December 14, 2006 10:34 AM | Report abuse

The problem is not generally OUR representatives in the VA and MD legislature, but the rest of the legislators.

Posted by: nashpaul | December 14, 2006 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Prices go up. Metro is paying more for fuel and electricity for their fleet of buses and trains. Did you think that the increase in fuel costs were going to escape Metro? They are doing what any rational business would do, passing those costs on to you.

Also, their labor costs are out of control. But that is another argument.

Posted by: Jason | December 14, 2006 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Actually, NOVA voters had their chance back in 2002, but voted down higher taxes for transportation. They deserve the mess we're in now.

Posted by: Jon Taylor | December 14, 2006 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Hey John,

NOVA voters realized that the General Assembly would NOT guarantee that the funds would be used only for transportation, and instead would be raided for whatever purpose the General Assembly saw fit to raid it for anywhere in the state. We voted accordingly, as NoVA already subsidizes the rest of this god forsaken hellhole of a Commonwealth.

Posted by: Ashburn | December 14, 2006 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Hey, Jon and Ashburn, not ALL of us live in NoVA!

I might be getting a 5 percent raise for next year (not finalized yet), but under this plan, my Metrorail fare and my Metro parking fee will each go up 21 percent. No wonder the middle class can't ever get ahead. *grumble* *sigh*

Posted by: PG to DC | December 14, 2006 11:18 AM | Report abuse

How do you know that proposed tax from the referendum would actually have been used for transportation? We already raised taxes to pay for transportation in 1986, when the sales tax went up half a percent with the increase going into the transportation trust fund by law. But the state government diverted the money from the trust fund several times to balance the budget (i.e., for purposes other than transportation). How were we to be sure that this wouldn't happen again had the sales tax referendum passed?

I don't think things are so intolerable traffic-wise as the local media would like us to believe, but then, I've lived in the area for over 30 years and I know all the back ways everywhere.

Posted by: Rich | December 14, 2006 11:21 AM | Report abuse

I hate to say it, but I'm not necessarily opposed to the increases. As Jason said, with prices increasing, what is Metro supposed to do? Especially when the local/state governments do not seem to value Metro as a means of cutting down on traffic congestion.

Some people complain that such a fare increase will cause riders to opt to drive, thus working against Metro's mission of getting people out of their cars. But don't the local jurisdictions have a greater obligation on this issue (i.e., congestion)? Where is the dedicated funding? Without such funding, what is Metro supposed to do? Seriously?

Posted by: Ward 6 | December 14, 2006 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Here's a question: Since they are planning to overhall the fare structure and work to get more riders to use SmartCards, why doesn't Metro's proposal include a Bus-to-Rail transfer discount akin to the Rail-to-Bus transfer?

The argument has always been that transfers to the Metrorail was not feasible. That's understandable. But with the more concentrated push to use SmartCards, why not work in the Bus-to-Rail transfer as an added incentive for people to give up the cash (buses) and paper cards (rail)?

Posted by: Bus AND Rail Rider | December 14, 2006 11:26 AM | Report abuse

What's really moronic is Metro's "hope" to shift people's riding habits to get them outside of the busiest stations and to do so during off-peak hours.

That would make sense if the bulk of the DC region's jobs and tourist attractions were outside of the region. Or if employers & employees were willing to work an 11-8 shift to duck rush-hour fares. Or if Metro were also designed for suburb-to-suburb travel.

And while Metro's trying to steal more money for us, why isn't it increasing the pre-tax deductions or lobbying Congress to fix the ceiling limit? As it is, the $105 monthly allowance doesn't even cover 2 weeks for me.

Posted by: Chris | December 14, 2006 11:27 AM | Report abuse

It would nice if we could debate these issues without applying broad brush assertions or resorting to hyperbole and exaggeration. Or finger pointing and blame shifting. Jon writes, "Actually, NOVA voters had their chance back in 2002, but voted down higher taxes for transportation. They deserve the mess we're in now." Where does that leave the voters who voted for the higher taxes, in terms of what they "deserve"? Not all voters in a Presidential, Congressional or local election see every candidate or measure they support win each time. There are bound to be some defeats. Do all voters nevertheless "deserve" all the outcomes when the other side wins? Of course not. The only thing you can say is that a majority of those who voted prevailed on a n issue.

Posted by: Longtime Metro Rider | December 14, 2006 11:35 AM | Report abuse

I'm confused - if you enter and exit at high congestion stations (Union Station to Pentagon, for example), does that mean you pay a 35 added fare for each, or 70 cents total per trip, or is it just once (35 cents) per trip?

Posted by: Confused about congestion fare | December 14, 2006 11:42 AM | Report abuse

I support encouraging the SmarTrip. I also support a general increase, but since those of us who park and ride already had to take such a huge hit the last time around, I don't think it's fair to hit us again. At this point it's going to be less expensive to drive downtown and park instead of parking at the metro, walking to the station in the cold, waiting in the cold, standing in a crowded car, waiting for the orange and blue lines to share the tracks and walking to my building in the cold. Charging extra for exiting at a station downtown is so bizarre there aren't words to describe it. Imagine people actually wanting to exit at stations close to jobs.

Posted by: Darcy Wertz | December 14, 2006 11:42 AM | Report abuse

You know, it occurs to me that if we are to take the "congestion charge" seriously, then WMATA ought to add the 35¢ charge for riders going to Morgan Boulevard to see the Redskins, or Stadium-Armory for the Nationals or United, or Gallery Place for the Capitals or the Bullets, etc. (I suppose Monday night Redskin games, and weekday afternoon National games, might be considered events that add particularly large numbers of riders at rush hour.)

Posted by: Rich | December 14, 2006 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Metro needs to step up and clean its own house prior to cleaning my wallet. A CEO that makes more money than most can fathom per year, trains that run like a commuter line rather than a subway, no investigation in how to internally eliminate/reduce costs (like removal of carpeting), annoying recorded messages on and off trains ("Is that your bag?" and "STEP BACK!"), announcements being doubled because of the spanish version of "Is that your bag?", no support for the deaf riders to speak of, no public disclosure/oversight of books, promises of minimum 6 car trains that have yet to be accomplished, refurb'd escalators that anyone with ears knew were going to break immediately after they were "fixed", and now a fare increase that boggles the mind with surcharges that penalize the very core ridership.

Face it, folks... This system is run by idiots.

After spending 19 years in the area and riding Metro each day to work, I'm calling it quits. While actively looking for a new job outside of DC isn't my favorite idea, I can't justify the 1.5 hour commute each way anymore (half of it getting to the Springfield station and the other half riding into Farragut West). The cost of time, and now money is just too much.

Posted by: M | December 14, 2006 12:01 PM | Report abuse

They should break up Peak Hours into different segments. It's too much to ask most people to shift their commute to post 9:30, but shifting within peak to an earlier less congested time is more reasonable. Therefore they should break out peak hours into segments and price them in a way to encourage less congestion.

Posted by: Reid | December 14, 2006 12:08 PM | Report abuse

I hear you M. I am moving out of the area next week because I just could no longer justify living in such an overpriced and overcongested metro area.

(Yes, I know, some people have jobs that force them to live in the DC area)

But I'm tired of having to pay more and more for Metro and then be greeted with more and more unreliable service, more and more obnoxious, out of control teenagers who rule Metro cars unopposed, smacking gum, harassing passengers and generally making my commute miserable.

I realize, after 6 years out here, that local political leaders have never and will never have the will or intelligence to fix the transit and other quality of life issues that are slowly ruining the DC area.

Posted by: Chris | December 14, 2006 12:10 PM | Report abuse

A "congestion charge" punishes users because the downtown stations are jammed. Will I get to pay less when the train is late or the AC is broken? Metro is likely now the most expensive transit system in North America. My job's moving from downtown to Fairfax Co. next year. I can take 3 trains and a shuttle bus, at more cost, or drive to free covered parking in less time. Guess which I'm doing?

Posted by: Alexandria user | December 14, 2006 12:12 PM | Report abuse

You know... when they actually roll out all these hot advantages for the Green line such as 8-car service, better exit options from parking-Greenbelt station is horrendous to begin with-and so on that they've been heaping on the other lines first MAYBE getting screwed with our clothes still on would be a little more tolerable...

Also, frankly toughsh*t that the Board are going to get an uptick on every little detail wrong with the system, though I know Dr Gridlock is just pointing out the obvious. They have no damn clue about their ridership's needs and this action again proves the point that unaccountable officials are damngerous when given money and power.

Posted by: DRC | December 14, 2006 12:18 PM | Report abuse

So they're raising our bus fare, AND cutting back the available Centreville bus routes by over half? Nice job, WMATA. Thanks so much.

Posted by: CallMeSkeptical | December 14, 2006 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Chris notes the presence of "more and more obnoxious, out of control teenagers who rule Metro cars unopposed, smacking gum, harassing passengers and generally making my commute miserable." What is the solution? Isn't a lot of that due to poor parenting? I agree with Chris that it is disheartening and annoying to encounter cruel or inconsiderate or intimidating behavior on Metro, especially from youths. It doesn't speak well of them or their parents. But how much can Metro do, given that they can't have a transit officer in each railcar?

Remember the case of the 12 year old girl who was arrested for eating french fries on Metro property? Her mother bemoaned the trauma to her of the arrest. (Let's set aside the arrest and focus on the infraction. We can certainly debate whether the Metro transit officer overreacted). But I don't remember ever hearing the mother say in public that her daughter showed poor judgment in flouting a rule which had a sound basis. Too often, we see people on Metro acting as if rules are for fools and that they themselves do whatever they want. The lack of accountability is endemic and includes many members of the riding public.

Had I been the parent of that girl, I might have questioned the actions of the transit police but I also would have said, "My child showed poor judgment and acted as if the rules don't apply to her. She and I who raised her bear some responsibility for that. I don't know whether she has eaten in the Metro system in the past but if she has caused a mess, I apologize to the public." When do you ever hear that, from any parent? All too rarely.

Posted by: Lack of accountability is widespread | December 14, 2006 12:34 PM | Report abuse

I also think the fare hike proposals are ridiculous for tourists (especially visiting families). Under the current fare structure, as long as one person in a family or group pays the $5 extra for a SmarTrip card, they're OK. Now, will they ALL need a SmarTrip card? That's another $20 for a family of four. And what's going to happen to the one-day pass? Do we really want to drive tourists to overmanaged theme parks?

Posted by: PG to DC | December 14, 2006 1:02 PM | Report abuse

I will agree with the Smarttrip discount, as this will definitely encourage me to finally get one and will also increase the efficiency of the system. As for a fare increase, things are going to go up, no matter what it is.

However, I am staunchly opposed to decreasing weekend service, especially since that is the time of a lot of activities when Metro is heavily used. Plus, are they going to cut down on late hours on Fri and Sat nights when partygoers are out late? I can see DUI skyrocket if that's the case.

Posted by: Rob | December 14, 2006 1:18 PM | Report abuse

The SmarTrip discount is a GOOD idea, particularly on the buses. Take London buses where everyone uses Oyster card and you will see how much faster boarding is.

The downtown congestion charge seems punitive for people who can't necessarily control their work hours. Couple it with a congestion charge on CARS and it might be fairer.

Posted by: andrew | December 14, 2006 1:22 PM | Report abuse

To agree with the poster above, maybe the plan to have people travel outside of rush hour wouldn't be so odious if the service outside of rush hour wasn't so terrible. 12 minute lead times mid-day? 18-20 minute lead times after 7:00??? I often see the lead times stretching out during the 6 o'clock (pm) hour on the orange line. Unbelievable. If they want to increase ridership outside of rush hour (the stagnant ridership is coming from decreased off-peak ridership) then make service less terrible then! I would probably be persuaded to ride Metro to a number of locations on the weekends rather than drive IF I didn't have to worry about waiting 18 minutes for a train to come.

Posted by: Dan | December 14, 2006 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Buying a second car (even used) instead of relying on public transit will still be more expensive than what I will pay to ride ART and Metro. (Of course, ART is unbelievably well run, and it softens the blow of Metro.)

But what gets me is the utter callousness and chaos that accompany this rate increase. First, they're taking away seats and poles, to cram more people in, but now they say there aren't enough people, so does that mean this plan to remove seats is off? Probably not. Or, they create an incredibly difficult to understand rate increase, but have absolutely nothing obvious on their website this morning? Ideally, they should have had, ready to go, a little fare calculator that would tell me immediately what I pay now and what I will pay when the rates go into effect. But they had nothing! Telling workers to just alter their job schedules also smacks of callousness -- half their ridership are feds, and while some of the fare is subsidized for them (if you live further out, fares aren't 100% covered), they can't change their hours! Most fed offices adhere to old-fashioned work-by-the-clock rules!

I guess what I am trying to say in this ramble is that Metro looks bad for raising fares, and it seems to have done everything possible to ensure that the ridership would be extremely upset.

Posted by: Arlington, VA | December 14, 2006 1:35 PM | Report abuse

I don't really trust you to do anything about this, but metro really wants me to pay more, maybe they should get staff cars out of the kiss & ride spots at the Silver Spring Metro lot. There are enough people loading and unloading passengers literally on top of the "NO STOPPING" marks without the 15 minutes spots being full of cars parked by metro workers.

Posted by: Silver Spring Station | December 14, 2006 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Two debates are conflated here - what the goals should be, and how best to bring them about.
Fare revenue covers 44% of Metro expense (2004, most recent figure I've seen), relatively high among big city transit systems. You've got people who think this number should be more like 100% and others who think it should be more like 0%, and both groups vote in elections, and they both know they're obviously right.
I think it's good that the allegedly clever ideas have been made into a firm proposal rather than left in study-land. I expect several of them will meet the fate of New Coke, and maybe some won't. These are pet ideas of various local officials, and right now any debate is mostly bias and almost no facts. Try it and see what happens, and there will still be biases, but also more facts. I didn't see anything in the proposals that sounded like it would blow up the world.
I'm not concerned about people not understanding the new fares because I don't think they understood the old ones either. I suppose there are a few who think about "composite miles" (the kind of distance you pay for on Metrorail, last time I knew) and the like, but don't you suppose most folks (a) read the price off the sign, (b) deal with whatever the faregate tells them, or (c) just ignore it?
I do wonder why they chose to present the 35 cent difference as a congestion surcharge rather than an underutilized area discount. Was this some kind of subtly clever ax-grinding or was it witlessness? I have no clue.

Posted by: WW | December 14, 2006 2:18 PM | Report abuse

I grew up in this town. But, I've never know the reason for the sliding scale Metro fares. Why 1) can't the system cost everyone a flat fee ($1.75 or 2.25) 2) include free transfers between bus/rail or rail/bus and 3) a reasonable fare increase (5%) every six years?

The LAST THING this system needs to do is reduce service. Metro should be moving every bit toward a 24-hr system - even if the late night schedule only runs trains every 20 minutes. If the goal is an increase of 100,000 new DC residents, more conventions/tourists and more jobs, we've got to move people and reduce congestion by encouraging outlaying area parking.

Can you imagine the meeting on the day this new fare structure was proposed...'Let's make it as complicated as possible, no one will attend the public forums, the fares will pass, folks will grumble and then they will pay.'

Metro has been telling it's ridership "Up Yours" ever since they eliminated the 10% bonus on high volume fare card purchases.

Posted by: Cooky | December 14, 2006 2:26 PM | Report abuse

What strikes me as most ridiculous about this plan is that for the last couple of decades, the urban planners have been encouraging people to move close to where they work. That's what we did--we live in the downtown are and work in the downtown area, but not close enough that we want to walk when it's cold/hot/snowing/etc. (about 1.5-2.0 miles work-home). For doing what we were encouraged to do and what we were told would make transit better, we're now being told we'll need to be penalized with a "congestion zone" fare increase.

Posted by: Brian | December 14, 2006 3:20 PM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: Travelers, I just got back from the Metro board meeting where the transit authority presented the budget proposal. Check out a new blog entry called "Metro Board Cool to Fare Increase."

Posted by: Dr. Gridlock | December 14, 2006 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Let me get this straight - I have no choice about when I come to work (9:00-6:00) or where I work (downtown), so I have to pay both a higher fare for traveling during rush hour PLUS an add on fee for working in the congested area, all for being crammed onto a train and possibly standing the whole way home and back? I never thought I'd hear my tree-hugging self say this, but I'm going to look into driving and parking.

Oh, and if a jurisdiction that uses Metro doesn't want to pay for it via a dedicated funding source, how about reducing service to said area?

Posted by: Dee | December 14, 2006 3:54 PM | Report abuse

It's long overdue that our region provided financial incentives for off-peak commuting, both on the roads and on the rails.

Posted by: | December 14, 2006 5:15 PM | Report abuse

The problem, GreenMiles, is that the incentives need to hit the EMPLOYERS in the pocketbook, not the employees. How 'bout fining companies (or even agencies?) that don't allow a certain percentage of their workers to do off-peak commuting? Why squeeze those of us who are barely scraping by?

Posted by: PG to DC | December 14, 2006 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Some agencies in the federal government actually do quite well in permitting some employees to work flexible schedules, working 8 or 9 hour days that start as early as 6 or 6:30 am. That enables some employees to begin their afternoon commutes as early as 3:30. That departure time still puts most riders into the system during peak hours, however. And even feds, to say nothing of private sector employers, have to take into account the hours that their customers and/or clients expect to be able to reach them. While I have a lot of sympathy for Metro as it struggles with shortfalls and a lack of dedicated funding, I shake my head at some of the ideas that are put forth. Remember the Metro spokeswomen who suggested that senior citizens schedule their medical appointments for off peak hours? Well, anyone who is at the mercy of a doctor's crowded calendar knows that sometimes you have to take the first available appointment, especially when there is a pressing need to see a doctor or dentist.

Posted by: Scheduling | December 14, 2006 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Forget about being too complicated -- the basic concept that mass transit riders are penalized for using it during peak periods and going to congested downtown sites is absolutely backward. London adopted a similar system for DRIVERS so as to encourage people to use mass transit. Now, Metro wants to penalize folks for doing exactly what they should be doing. Ridiculous! The only good idea in the package was the idea of having a $.10 difference (not $.45-1.80) in fares for using smartcards over paper cards -- similar to ez-pass concept of offering cheaper services when the costs are lowered.

Posted by: DC Resident | December 14, 2006 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Wait! Wait! Let's add $1 each per person for each elevator ride. After all we have a captive audience of mothers with strollers (=$2), handicapped people, the elderly, etc.

But why stop there. What about charging people to recycle or creating a special tax on hybrids (those damn eco-hipsters can afford it)?

Posted by: I have an idea | December 14, 2006 11:38 PM | Report abuse

I'm with the people who think they should set a flat fare as in other cities. Even if they have to set it at $2.50 or $3. I'd think that would be better than the convuluted system they have now or the more convuluted system they are proposing.

On the other hand, I'm kind of lucky that this won't affect me much. I live less than a mile from work so I walk and if I ever move back to DC, I would probably do the reverse commute on my bicycle mostly or telecommute. I don't own a car and have no plans to buy one. I don't see my frequency of Metro use changing whether they proceed with this proposal or not. Metro fares would have go really high before it would make sense to do otherwise.

I find all these threats to return to a car amusing. Okay I admit I don't drive. I am aware that traffic in this area is really bad. People have made these threats before, but in my uneducated perception, I have yet to see the effects on traffic of these large numbers of people returning to their cars. If we did have mass exodus from Metro, I'd think we would be seeing a different level of gridlock on the streets. Actually I think it might be interesting to see Metro implement these new fare proposals next summer about the time we have another gas price "crisis". Then people can boycott metro and gas stations at the same time.

Posted by: Manuel | December 14, 2006 11:49 PM | Report abuse

Apparently Metro has not looked at the history and demise of public transporation in other American cities....when the fares go up and the service goes down, very few people will use public transportation and there will be no jobs for current Metro employees.

There is no reason to use a complicated pricing system. Provide consistent service throughout the day, charge a flat fee and the riders will be there.

A surcharge at peak stations is absurd. This isn't the airlines; we don't have a choice as when we need to travel to work.

I just moved here during the summer, and I am almost sure I remember Metro saying there ridership was up considerably at that time. What has happened since the summer?

This area doesn't need more cars on the road. The air quality is already very poor during the hot days of summer. I come from Los Angeles where rush hour is day and night, 7 days a week. It is interesting that Metro hired a new General Manager from a city with zero public transportation and the worse traffic in the country.

Posted by: anonymous | December 15, 2006 9:33 AM | Report abuse

It looks like my trip (including parking) will increase about $1.90 daily, or about $40 monthly. Not that much of an increase, perhaps, but Metro service has gotten consistently worse over the years, not better, with breakdowns at rush hour becoming the routine, rather than the exception. I've ridden public transportation in a lot of places, and I have to say that DC is near or at the bottom when it comes to value for cost. My monthly Metro expense will come to $9.00 daily, or about $200/mo. Most of the riding/driving comparisons I've seen are fallacious, because they factor in the cost of car ownership. The real comparison is parking/additional gas vs. Metro costs. It will still cost more to drive -- but not much. The added flexibility a car gives is looking pretty attractive at the moment. And as for the new fares encouraging workers to come in at "off-peak" hours: give me a break! I'd change hours to avoid rush-hour now, if I could. The congestion charge is gouging, pure and simple, dressed up to look like something sensible. The reason ridership is down is poor service, unreliability and unsafe conditions in and around many stations. The solution is putting more cars on trains (and making sure they're well maintained). Ridership -- and metro profits -- will start to go back up.

Posted by: Tom | December 15, 2006 2:15 PM | Report abuse


"Metro is still going to be a lot cheaper than driving and parking downtown. Maybe those that do drive downtown should pay a congestion tax that is dedicated to transit."


Please explain the obvious sense of entitlement here. Exactly why should people who are not using transit have to pay more for it? Drivers already pay for transit with their taxes, whether they use it or not.

Why can't transit users pay a larger share of the cost of their ride? We drivers are paying 100% of the cost of our ride, PLUS 70% of the cost of YOUR ride (according to WMTA's own figures).

The problem with a lot of Metro riders is their addiction to other people's money, driven by a sense of entitlement. Many of you are a bunch of spoiled brats. I've ridden every subway system in the US and Canada. I was on the Chicago system last Friday. Compared to everywhere else, Metro riders have it pretty damn good, even with the high fares.

You need to grow up. And pay for your OWN train ride.

Posted by: CEEAF | December 15, 2006 6:11 PM | Report abuse

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