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Would You Stop Riding?

You can see in today's Post story on the Metro budget proposal that many people told staff writer Lena Sun they'd stop riding if the fares went up. But the last two times the fares went up, people grumbled about not getting what they were paying for, but they kept riding.

Would Metro really take a big hit on ridership this time? The fare increase proposal is more complex this time, and part of the intent is to limit the impact on people who are most sensitive to price changes. That includes low income riders, people who have a relatively easy alternative to Metro, off-peak travelers and reverse commuters.

If you live and work in the congested heart of this region and you're relatively well off, the transit authority figures, you're less likely to abandon Metro.

Most of us will act in our own best interests, rather than out of a desire to somehow punish Metro.

What would it take to get you off Metro if this fare increase actually happened? l'm not asking if you think it's fair. This is more about understanding what your threshold is and what are the ingredients in your choice.

By Robert Thomson  |  December 15, 2006; 12:38 PM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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RT Fare from Vienna to Downtown plus parking at Vienna would cost only marginally less than driving into the city and paying for parking. Who in their right mind would take Metro under those conditions?

Posted by: Metro No More | December 15, 2006 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Considering that the incoming GM is getting a living allowance on top of a generous salary and that Metro finances motor vehicles for its board members (not sure if that's still true), asking for a fare increase on this kind of scale will seriously make me consider getting in my car and driving to work. (Now if the fare increase money was being earmarked for the development of a third rail, that would possibly be a different story...)

In this case, I'm more than willing to hurt Metro than act in my (immediate) best interest.

Posted by: Chris | December 15, 2006 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Other cities have begun taxing (through tolls) commuters who drive into the downtown from the suburbs, then using that money to fund roads and public transportation. Minneapolis and London come to mind that employ this system. it would seem a natural step to charge those who drive to offset the costs of public transportation.

Posted by: Patrick | December 15, 2006 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Start setting up slug-lines in Vienna and Rockville now. You may still have to pay for parking in the metro lots but you can get there on time in am without standing.

Posted by: Woodbridge | December 15, 2006 1:40 PM | Report abuse

I already drive because it's faster, and this surely would not make me reconsider that.

Regarding the slug line point, from what I've read it's generally thought that slug lines won't succeed on HOV-2 roads because people are understandably wary of riding alone with a stranger. I-395 is different because it's HOV-3.

Posted by: Rich | December 15, 2006 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Right now to travel during rush hour and park from Franconia Springfield it costs roughly $12 a day. I know the new fares will increase marginally for those who use Smartrip but will increase even more for those who get off at certain high population stations downtown. For a trip that takes almost double the time then driving--I think i'd be willing to brave the traffic rather than pay a $6 one way commute. If you do the math parking downtown plus gas it comes out pretty even but with driving i'd end up saving time. Without the incentive of it costing less to take metro...i'll probably just try harder to take the slugline.

Posted by: P | December 15, 2006 1:58 PM | Report abuse

$2.10 each way increase will mean around $900 post-tax expenditure increase. We are talking about a $1500 effect on salary here, nullifying the 2-3% COLA for most folks. If Metro has figured out that they belong to the upper middle class only, then they should provide adequate comfort and on-time service. In that case I will pick Metro over slug-line.

Posted by: Subrato | December 15, 2006 1:59 PM | Report abuse

I am off the train if my commute becomes more than the almost $12 to/from Vienna. I can drive and pay the monthly public parking rate at a prime Federal Triangle garage faster and, with a fare increase, for the same price. Metro service has gone downhill in the past year so I've been considering jumping off anyway; this will just incentivise it.

Posted by: another VA suburbinite | December 15, 2006 2:04 PM | Report abuse

I can't say right away that I would stop riding metro, especially since it costs an absurd amount of money to park in garages downtown. What I can say is that whoever is making the decisions for METRO is completely out of touch with what is going on . I can also say that METRO will no longer be the most economic way to get to work for most people and instead of increasing ridership they will most likely decrease it.
It also doesn't look good to commuters who just read last month in the Post all about the perks and salary hike for this new GM - but then he wants to nickle and dime his riders.

Posted by: Adrienne | December 15, 2006 2:05 PM | Report abuse

It already takes me longer to use Metro than it would for me to drive, but it costs about 1/2 as much. So my fare- currently $1.50 each way- would have to more than double, to not only make parking at least equal in cost, if not cheaper AND to account for extra $$ spent on gas and wear and tear.

Shame, though. I moved close in so that I could use my car less.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 15, 2006 2:06 PM | Report abuse

I already avoid Metro like the plaugue. It is already more expensive to use Metro than to drive. I might reconsider if I thought that I'd save time, but the system has been notoriously bad when I take it and I haven't noticed any improvement since I started driving.

Posted by: Jason Papanikolas | December 15, 2006 2:19 PM | Report abuse

i would definitely stop riding if my commute became more expensive. like any decision, it comes down to a cost-benefit analysis that would not favor metro. i also agree with the suggestion that there should be a toll for cars coming into the district. metro riders already pay taxes and metro fares so its time that more taxes support the metro. furthermore, the suggestion that off-peak fares will decrease is stupid. sorry metro, but my employer dictates when i need to be at work, not metro.

Posted by: subwaystrike | December 15, 2006 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Not only would this fare increase make Metro less economical for me than driving (I get on at Vienna and off at Foggy Bottom), as a matter of principle I would (after 25 years of using Metro) find alternate means of commuting, the principle here being the gouging and exploitation of Metro's lifeblood and turning its back on the very reason it exists -- to get people out of their cars and to improve the environment. Institutions that lose sight of their goals are doomed to fail. I refuse to subsidize the bloated salaries and perks of those who do not deserve it.

Posted by: emacco | December 15, 2006 2:28 PM | Report abuse

I gave up Metro after the last round of increases. My commute has improved dramatically, and I can listen to my satellite radio the entire trip. No fighting for non-existing parking spots, no hastle with delayed trains, no problems with broken escalators, and no worry about getting shoved onto the third rail. Despite the horrendous traffic, driving is actually a much better alternative to the pathetically, inefficiently run Metro!!

Posted by: Thomas | December 15, 2006 2:30 PM | Report abuse

I ride in from Vienna to Farragut West. My office is moving to Van Ness. I was already considering driving in because it would be cheaper. If the fares increase, It is even more likely that I will drive. And I work for an environmental organization, so it is painful and a bit embarrassing to make that decision!! But with a child in daycare and the thought of adding another metro line to my commute therefore combining to two most crowded metro lines (orange and red)and increasing my chance of delays....too many unknowns, plus the added expense. Sorry metro, I have stood up for you for many years and I am glad you are here, but you will probably only be used by me for short trips.

Posted by: Dena | December 15, 2006 2:32 PM | Report abuse

I am stuck on Metro. I work at 14th & Independence and do not want to drive.

Recently I looked into auto costs. The IRS is now allowing up to .40 cents per mile. As an auto owner I believe that repairs, insurance and fuel actually do come close to that figure per mile. So in figuring alternatives I'm not sure Metro really is more expensive for some of us.

My gripe is the lack of service. Operators don't tell you when connections are delayed so you can switch lines, Gallery Place is a mob scene with nary an employee around to manage flow, escalators are out of service forever, announcements are impossible to hear, the overhead signs aren't accurate.

They need to focus on doing better before I think more money is needed.

Posted by: RoseG | December 15, 2006 2:33 PM | Report abuse

In my car, even in the worst traffic, it still takes me less time to get from my home in Alexandria to my office than it does to commute via metro. I currently use metrobus and metrorail to get to work, because they are mostly reliable - but certainly not cheap. I would very seriously consider driving all the time if a fare hike like this went through. More because the proposal is ridiculous - charging more for people who work a 9-5 job, in the downtown area? Also because metro is poorly managed and poorly maintained. I cannot, in good conscience, keep spending more and more money on something that doesn't work, doesn't want to work, and makes no bones about it either.

Metro's biggest problem is that it's a retroactively run organization. It doesn't deal with a problem until it's already happening. If they were proactive, they would have worked on many of the problems they now have years ago when they were only "forseeable." This fare hike is just another example.

I truly hope that metro doesn't do this. I shudder to think of the consequences.

Posted by: LV | December 15, 2006 2:35 PM | Report abuse

I live near Van Ness metro and work near Farragut park. Using my Smartrip card, my trip would go up almost a dollar per day for 10 minutes on metro each way. If this fare increase occurs, I will take metrobus, thus actually saving myself money for just a little more time.

The congestion charge is ridiculous. Why doesn't it extend to Capitol East? I would assume there's more than a few people who ride metro to the Hill. That would wake up our legislators to the needs of the system.

Posted by: citymouse | December 15, 2006 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Do-nothing Metro employees who eat sandwiches in booths and hold clipboards: YOU HAVE HAD IT.

Posted by: Bye Bye Bamas! | December 15, 2006 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Yeah; Im so tired of seeing a bunch of guys standing around an escalator pretending to be working on it. Metro needs to go bankrupt, void its union contracts, and start over.

Posted by: Dave | December 15, 2006 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Good point on the 2 per car.

Hmmmm pick up 2? crazy or what?

Posted by: A bridge | December 15, 2006 2:49 PM | Report abuse

No question about it--I would drive. Driving takes half the time, and the cost of parking is only $8 a day, compared to what is likely to become more than $11 per day on metro with parking. The fare increase is utterly unjustifiable. I read a comment yesterday which said that it's not really accurate to compare metro fares to NYC subway fares, since some of the distances covered in DC are more like commuter rail distances. That couldn't be more wrong. I would be surprised if anyone on the DC metro is traveling as far as New Yorkers who ride the E train from Flushing to the Financial District or people traveling from Coney Island to midtown. I rode the New York City subway for years for an hour and a half each way, and never experienced the kind of idiocy I put up with daily on the metro. In addition to the poor service, I can no longer bear the constant haranguing from taped messages and from conductors.

Posted by: dearbhla | December 15, 2006 2:50 PM | Report abuse

"Other cities have begun taxing (through tolls) commuters who drive into the downtown from the suburbs, then using that money to fund roads and public transportation. Minneapolis and London come to mind that employ this system. it would seem a natural step to charge those who drive to offset the costs of public transportation."

Are you serious?

After more than 30 years of a "transit-only" transportation strategy of building expensive rail transit, while canceling more highways than were built, you now want to "tax" motorists with tolls on the few highways that DID get built and spend ALL the revenue on transit.

As if historically spending nearly all of our transportation funds on building rail and over half a billion dollars annually subsidizing its maintenance and operation aren't enough.

I don't think so. That's adding insult to injury. Especially considering the fact that many if not most transit advocates oppose and try to stop every new highway proposed. I wouldn't be surprised if you were of the same mind.

What's with the sense of entitlement? Where is it written that society OWES you a train or bus ride? Why on Earth can't transit users pay a bigger share of the cost of their ride? We drivers fully pay for our ride and we pay for a good part of yours, too. When is enough finally enough?

I can't speak for everyone who drives, but I for one am sick and tired of rotting in ever-worsening traffic and seeing my taxes spent on someone else's train ride while I hear about yet another effort to block a new road I could use along with hare-brained schemes to pick drivers' pockets for even more dollars to spend on transit I can't use.

And spare me the tired slogans about how much worse traffic would be without transit and how "Metro takes a lot of cars off the roads". I know better. I'm in the traffic.

Posted by: CEEAF | December 15, 2006 2:51 PM | Report abuse

CEEAF needs some education. Metro doesn't take cars off the road? Can you imagine if the half-million people who ride Metro and take the bus every day got in their individual cars instead? And while transit users don't pay the full cost of their trip, neither do drivers. Taxpayer money pays for the roads you drive on, the traffic lights, the snowplows that keep them clear in the winter, etc. If you were to look at the complete costs of driving and what you personally pay, it's subsidized far, far more than transit is.

That said, Metro should take a look at what the San Francisco transit agency is thinking about doing. Muni is also facing a deficit, but it won't consider raising fares. Instead, it's looking at raising parking prices and doing what they can to cut costs. See

Posted by: Arlingtonian | December 15, 2006 3:04 PM | Report abuse

One of the itineraries provided by the "Trip Planner" just showed my 33 min trip from OPM (1900 E St NW) to 2200 Crystal Drive would cost $101.39. I think that fare is high enough!

Posted by: cwdel | December 15, 2006 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Why not just have people buy smart cards where people pay by the day and if they don't use the card, they lose the money. That is what the airlines do, and also some hotels. Better yet, why not have different rates based upon how full the parking lots are. Isn't metro proposing something as stupid as this with the new fair proposal with all the various rates.

Posted by: maryland | December 15, 2006 3:14 PM | Report abuse

I would stick with it. Since I live in DC and work near metro center, commuting by car is neither quicker nor cheaper.

Do I like the proposal? No, particularly because they've priced it in part to stick it to people in the city as well.

The problem this is raising is that public transit provides benefits both to people who use it and people who don't, the latter by getting traffic off the road. Rather than raising fares, other approaches to raise revenue for supporting metro are in order, such as the "commuter toll" that would impose a charge for anyone driving into the downtown area and creating congestion. It's worked well for London. Why not here?

Posted by: ah | December 15, 2006 3:22 PM | Report abuse

CEEAF is indeed a stupid individual.

Of course we are not owed metro or bus rides--that's why we pay fares.

CEEAF on the other hand thinks that he/she is entitled to pollute MY environment while driving for FREE on roads that MY taxes paid for.

I think it would be fair if you had to pay $2.10 every time your gas-guzzling, earth-warming SUV left your exurban driveway, just like we have to pay every time we use the metro.

Posted by: Shawn | December 15, 2006 3:32 PM | Report abuse

CEEAF said: What's with the sense of entitlement? Where is it written that society OWES you a train or bus ride? Why on Earth can't transit users pay a bigger share of the cost of their ride? We drivers fully pay for our ride and we pay for a good part of yours, too. When is enough finally enough?

I'd ask, where is it written that society OWES you a road to drive on? As a resident of DC, I'm sick of having to dodge cars in the crosswalks and bikers forced onto the sidewalks by giant SUVs from the suburbs. I walk to work and take the bus when I'm running late (kinda how life was meant to be in cities, eh?), that said, if the cash bus fare goes up to $2, I probably won't take the bus unless I had my smartrip card handy, since all it costs me is about 10 minutes of sleep/coffee time.

Posted by: jj | December 15, 2006 3:41 PM | Report abuse

I live and work in Arlington, and it's much faster for me to drive to work than to take the bus or metro. If I have to go downtown, I sometimes drive and sometimes take metro, but with these new fares I would drive most if not all of the time. Especially since I refuse to pay $5 for a smart card. I find it unacceptable for them to charge money for something that reduces their operating costs.

Posted by: jb | December 15, 2006 3:44 PM | Report abuse

For all of you sounding off, what's your solution? Yes, Metro's GM getting a living allowance is absurd and there are certainly things Metro can do to be more efficient, but even if you add all those things up, it doesn't even make a dent in the budget shortfall. So what would you do? The money's got to come from somewhere or you have to cut services.

Posted by: Solutions | December 15, 2006 3:52 PM | Report abuse

I will pay the $6 Loudoun County Commuter bus just out of principle. THey say they want to "encourage riders to travel during off peak times"...ummm...yeah. Tell my boss that. I can see it now.

Me: Boss, I'll be 2 hours late today because Metro wants to "encourage" me to travel during off peak hours

Boss: Yeah, right. Be here on time.

Seriously, does Metro think we set our own work schedules? Reducing rates during off peak hours is a slap in the face. RAISE them for people who use the Metro during peak hours to avoid congestion on the roads and REDUCE them for the few people who work adjustable schedules. Yeah, thanks. Why do I all of a sudden feel like Beacher in a bad episode of OZ? Oh, because we're getting screwed as well.

Posted by: Sterling Park | December 15, 2006 4:15 PM | Report abuse

The original post said the fare proposal is intended to limit the impact on low income riders. Can someone explain what part of the proposal limits the impact on low income riders? I didn't catch it when I read the description of the fare increases.

Posted by: Etin | December 15, 2006 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Metro needs to be radically reorganized, starting with a legislated permanent funding commitment from the three jurisdictions that it serves (DC, MD, VA). Ours is the only major transit system that doesn't have a permanent funding commitment, which means every year there's a fight to squeeze money out of the different jurisdictions, and there is no real predictability. A commuter tax would be great, but it's politically impossible for DC to establish such a tax without Congress intervening. Since all of DC's laws can be voided by Congress, you can count on the suburban Congressmen and women to cancel any attempt at a commuter tax (the DC delegate is not allowed to vote). We should reorganize the current division of responsibilities, which places the majority of the funding burden on DC, which is the jurisdiction with the highest poverty concentration and therefore least able to afford it. Maryland and Virginia commuters travel longer distances on Metro, and almost all new construction of the system benefits their economies, so their citizens should be required to pitch in a (much) higher portion of the bill than they do currently. On our system, fares constitute the highest percentage of operating costs of any major system in the U.S. (i.e., the New York system's riders are much more heavily subsidized by their government than in DC). The federal government should kick in the difference here, since they frequently refer to their stewardship of Washington as a reason not to grant the city greater autonomy in internal affairs, and we could even see prices come DOWN to a reasonable fare structure. Once this is sorted out, we should scrap the bizarre pricing system that actually punishes people for riding during rush hour, and develop a simpler zone system. Same price all day long, more expensive the further you ride/the more transfers you make. Something like: $1.80 anywhere within D.C.; $2.25 from D.C. to the inner suburbs; $3.00 from D.C. to destinations beyond the beltway; $3.50 to the last two stations of any line. Our current system is underfunded and confusing, not to mention dysfunctional. Assure more money by making everyone assume their fair share; simplify the pricing; finally, add more trains!

Posted by: John | December 15, 2006 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Maybe I'm crazy, but I think fares for rush hour riders should be lower than off-peak fares. We're the ones that support Metro by riding morning and night, five days a week. Or have just one fare, no different for peak or off-peak.

The local governments need to step up to the plate and support Metro, we're already paying some of the highest fares in the country.

Posted by: DeltaOne | December 15, 2006 4:49 PM | Report abuse

I think most of the people who keep saying they can drive to work faster than Metro gets them there have not driven in quite some time. Traffic drive times have tripled in the past 2 years in many areas. Metro is the best answer and it is very cost effective. Stop your whining.

Posted by: Check the Facts | December 15, 2006 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Don't raise Metro fares, instead why not raise fees at Metro parking lots? At $4.00 a day, that's $80 a month, less than half the cost of downtown parking fees. This is a subsidy pure and simple for those using the parking lots. I'd rather see Metro reduce its shortfalls by getting more competitive on the true cost of parking before raising fees on all users.

Those who don't like it will have to get used to not living in a Nanny State.

Posted by: Metro Happy | December 15, 2006 5:02 PM | Report abuse

I live in Bethesda and work near the Hill. I'll stick with Metro for now, because the time it takes me to get to the Metro plus the time spent on the train is not too different from the drive time, and it will still be cheaper than driving and parking. (By the way, keep in mind that, if you're getting lower insurance rates for being a low-mileage weekend driver, you have to factor in the increase in premiums if you're going to start driving to work instead.) What _will_ someday get me off Metro will be comfort, rather than economics. I haven't seen the new cars yet (with fewer seats and bars too high for us short people), but as soon as I find myself regularly having to stand in a crowded car, that will be it.

Also, to add to Arlingtonian's response to CEEAF -- if you don't think Metro takes cars off the roads, just look at a morning when there's a problem on the Metro. A few weeks back, when a power outage on part of the Red Line temporarily shut a couple of stations and the local news stations were warning people, there was a noticeable uptick in traffic along the Red Line route.

Posted by: jane | December 15, 2006 5:03 PM | Report abuse

The rate hike could easily get me to drive instead of metro. Driving is always more pleasant than walking to/from metro to be crammed in a car. Especially on the many days when you'll be sweating, soaking or frozen by the walk. It's worth that to save $4 or $5 a day vs. driving. It's not worth it to save only $1 a day.

The extra hike on rush hour can't realistically encourage people to change their travel times. Metro knows that the demand for rush hour rates is fairly inelastic. People need to be at work at certain times and will choose the cheapest/most practical way to get there. And the extra toll on high volume stations is also just a money grab. What is it designed to do? Encourage people to get off 3 stations down and walk? Change jobs? Come on.

All I can think is that they aren't serious about the rate hike and this is a warning shot at the DC/VA/MD goverments to take their funding responsibilities seriously.

Posted by: booyah | December 15, 2006 5:04 PM | Report abuse

jb, why the fuss about paying a one-time $5 fee for a Smartrip card? I think it's easier than trying to count change/bills or remembering to grab a paper bus transfer before I get on a train downtown. And before any of you complain that they break, I've had the same card for 2+ years with no problems.

I'm not thrilled with the idea that I'm going to be "taxed" for working a normal A-shift job downtown. On the other hand, I believe in using public transit when possible, I hate city driving, and I hate fighting for parking spaces (more so if it's after having to drive into a city). I live outside Fairfax, work near McPherson Square, and as far as I know parking is nearly nonexistent within reasonable walking distance. So I will probably continue to commute bus to train for work, and the reverse on the way home -- but not entirely happily if there's a fare increase.

I may have a higher tolerance for this, though, given that I grew up in a small city with a single, 1- or 2-mile rail line and bus service only available within the city limits and not so much in the suburbs.

Posted by: Kristen | December 15, 2006 5:04 PM | Report abuse

I will still take the Metro. When factoring in walking to and from stations, my drive is a tad shorter than a Metro ride, but every time I have to drive, I thank my lucky stars I do it so infrequently. It is so stressful and frustrating to drive into and in DC during rush hour, I will pay Metro their higher rates to avoid it.

Posted by: csh | December 15, 2006 5:11 PM | Report abuse

I can't stand traffic so I doubt I'll start driving to downtown DC from Arlington each day. However, it is just one more thing that will make me reconsider living here. (I'm young, single and not from here so it wouldn't be hard for me to leave.)

Like Jane, I'm not looking forward to the anti-short people cars one bit. I don't mind standing but swinging from the ceiling is another thing completely.

Posted by: V | December 15, 2006 5:35 PM | Report abuse

My husband and I pay $6 each per day for our respective commutes and then about $3.25 for parking, coming to about $15.25 for the both of us. Parking downtown, on the other hand, costs $10 or $11 near our offices. We've justified taking the metro mostly because gas is expensive and we have an older car we would prefer not to use everyday. But, if we saw a dramatic increase in fares, I think we would drive far more often.

Posted by: Wheaton commuter | December 15, 2006 5:42 PM | Report abuse

"I think most of the people who keep saying they can drive to work faster than Metro gets them there have not driven in quite some time. Traffic drive times have tripled in the past 2 years in many areas. Metro is the best answer and it is very cost effective. Stop your whining."

I think you need a reality check. I live just outside the Beltway. Driving typically takes half an hour. Metro takes an hour if the trains are on time and if there are no breakdowns. I've lived in the DC area since the early 1970s and know multiple ways to get everywhere (i.e., I'm not one of the people who thinks that the highways are the only roads around). Traffic is bad and is worse than 20 years ago, but I do think that many people, especially people who don't drive, exaggerate just how bad it is.

Bottom line for me is that on average I save an hour a day by driving and I'm in the privacy of my own car with my own music, no teenage kids cussing at everyone, and no people who marinate in their perfume (or, worse, who don't use deodorant). For me it's an easy decision. BUT I DO appreciate having the Metro option. It's a life-saver when I take my car in for servicing and the dealer provides a ride to the Metro (or for my other car, I walk from the dealer to the Ballston stop). MUCH better than the old days when you had to get someone to follow you there. I took the Metro to the Fairfax Connector once when I needed to leave the car overnight and I was very thankful for it. I wouldn't do it regularly (and in the rain, the one-kilometre walk to the bus stop would NOT be enticing), but it's reassuring to have the option.

The point that some of us make (CEEAF and I would be two such folks) is not that public transport is BAD. Done right, it's a very good thing, and I do agree that I shudder to think of what I-66 would be like without the Orange Line. (I used to ride it from Vienna when I lived out that way, so I know how crowded it gets.) The point that we are making is that there are many people who act as though mass transport is a panacea, the ONLY answer, and that anyone who isn't already riding the train tubes is a fool who hasn't seen the light. That's not true and it's why I just offered my own commute as an example. In an area like the DC area, it's simply NOT practical to build a subway like New York's or London's. The amount of land needed around each station to build adequate parking is a MASSIVE problem (and it's unreasonable to think that the bus is practical in a city where many professionals don't work fixed schedules--consider all the attorneys downtown, for example). Any transportation planning has to be a MIX of strategically-planned transit AND roads. It's just not realistic otherwise.

What DOES need to happen is that the pre-tax transit benefit ought to be increased. I'm not eligible for pre-tax transit or parking, but when I was eligible some years back, I recall that you could get around $190 pre-tax for parking but only around $100 for transit. That was a huge incentive to drive, given that Metro (fares plus parking) also ran close to $200 a month. If the Powers That Be are serious about promoting transit use, closing that gap would be a significant step they ought to take.

Posted by: Rich | December 15, 2006 5:46 PM | Report abuse

I work downtown for a nonprofit, so our salaries are not market rate. Our work hours are set, so traveling during off-peak times won't work. Congestion on the roads is practically at gridlock for most of the morning and again for much of the evening, so for my own mental health I don't want to drive to work. I get the maximum allowed in SmarTrip benefits and have to add more to the card to finish out the month. I'm short and can't "swing from the bar" in the train either, as an earlier posted said.

The overall quality of life in this area is deteriorating due to congestion on the roads and the general cost of getting around. We won't even get into the cost of housing in this area!

Although I have lived here for over 35 years, I know that I don't want to stay here much longer if every decision made about transportation and/or development continues to errode my quality of life.

Go ahead and raise the rates, Metro. It might just make me move out of the area that much sooner.

Posted by: ready2move | December 15, 2006 6:16 PM | Report abuse

When I moved to the Dunn Loring area, I tried commuting to my job in Arlington via Metro, and quickly found that driving took less time (20 mins or less) and is more comfortable - rush hour crowding on Metro is outrageous. I'm not close enough to DL station to walk, so I have to drive or take the bus, which is what adds the time to my commute. Up until 2 months ago, I still used Metro to get to evening & weekend events; then I sucked it up and learned to drive in downtown. Sadly, I found that to be faster, cheaper and easier as well, so I have abandoned Metro almost entirely.

Posted by: ~sg | December 15, 2006 9:54 PM | Report abuse

Raising the parking fee to competitive rates is ludicrous. Parking in DC is more expensive because it is near the final destination! Parking at the Metro is a necessity and is already a large burden. For someone paying about eleven dollars per day and receiving a very poor service I am infuriated.
Cost analysis between riding the Metro and driving is not a valid argument. The decision to ride Metro should not be as simple as determining the cost savings over driving. Imagine if it did not exist...700,000 extra road commuters per day! The opportunity cost of sitting in the even larger traffic snarls would be astronomic. Riding the Metro should be looked at as a responsible means of commuting and should be subsidized like our roadways.
Shame on Metro for ever allowing such a deficit to exist. With the number of riders it is very hard to imagine there isn't an extreme surplus instead. There needs to be a detailed look at the inefficiencies that exist today and truthful reporting on the state of the budget to the commuters. If we are to fix their mismanagement, we are entitled to scrutinize every decision made.
Metro management: We are not lemmings and we are not above making a point by paying for parking at our final destinations. Eliminate inefficiencies, lobby for more state funds, fix the deficit. Pushing people back into their cars certainly isn't the right direction!

Posted by: 66islookingbetter | December 16, 2006 8:45 AM | Report abuse

It's probably a little late to comment on this, but I didn't "get here" yesterday.

I moved from DC to an exurb of Minneapolis/St. Paul 2 years ago. There is only one toll road in Minneapolis, and that is I-394. And it's not a complete toll road - it's a set of lanes that were formerly HOV and are now HOT. It is run only by a transponder system - no toll booths at all.

The cool thing about this (to my mind) is that tolls are increased based on the density of the traffic, and are aimed at keeping traffic moving at 55 mph (a novel concept). So if traffic starts to get congested, the toll goes up, making people think twice about taking it (the toll can go as high as $8 one way!).

Also, the money goes directly towards maintentance and administration of the system, improvements along the road, and improvements of the bus system.

Also important to note - it is ONLY used by commuters who pretty much want to hit downtown Minneapolis from the western suburbs. This is unlke Metro, which is an entry route into the city from all directions. If you're travelling from the east (as I do), you're in traditional traffic.

They do not have a rail system here, except for a relatively new light rail system that runs southeast from downtown Minneapolis to various heavily visited spots, including a VA center, the airport and the Mall of America (it's southern terminus). Otherwise, it's all bus. (With the rivers and lakes here, I doubt a subway would be practical or even possible.)

However, Minneapolis/St. Paul traffic really isn't that bad, compared to DC's. There are many more major E/W and N/S routes, and significantly more bridges over the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers. They have big LED boards that let you know about accidents and the estimated time to certain major exits. While I will try and avoid the traffic when I can, it is rarely as bad as DC's - gridlock only happens during bad accidents or around a few key construction sites. Even then, if you know your way around, there are always alternatives. Having XM Radio helps, too, as they have one of the 24-hour traffic channels. My biggest gripe is that they have insanely short on-ramps to access high-speed roads from street level.

And honestly - rush hour is more real time and predictable. Roads don't start getting bad until 6:30ish, but are usually cleared out by 9. And businesses are scattered all over the area, not just the one downtown - the two cities aren't that far apart so things have a certain density inside the ring of their "beltway" (I-494/694). Roads tend to get a little complicated around the two downtown areas, but it's pretty well signed and navigable. DC could do worse than check out the road system in place here.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | December 16, 2006 8:46 AM | Report abuse

As expensive as Metro is getting, fares only cover a small part of the total cost of Metro. Check out Metro's budgets for the past two years:

Posted by: howser | December 16, 2006 11:14 PM | Report abuse

Good article.

Now, I wanted to add that I think it's well known that people in this area have the highest incomes in the country. So all this outrage over the Metro fare increases seems like sniggling to me. Yes, yes, I know there are poor people, too. However, this does not change the fact that the majority of us are doing extremely well. We have been getting away with very low fares (and taxes) for years in this area. It's really time that people take a good look in the mirror and ask just what it is they are doing for their community.

It seems to me that we are doing the absolute minimum here in DC, considering our incomes. For example, every public school has trailers in the back. Even schools in Potomac. What does this say about us: the simple fact is we have become so cheap that we won't even pay taxes to build a school for our children, etc.

Our Metro system is not built up enough, in my opinion. The bus system itself should be three times the size it is now. The majority drive crazy distances to work and the majority of college educated people commute by SUV in this area. (That says a lot about our university systems, supposedly the best in the world...just what are these smart people learning?)

It's time to stop being Scrooges. There is a lot of work to be done in our communities. We have been very, very selfish, considering our wealth. We have been looking the other way and focusing on ourselves, our egos, and our property. This is a nation, not an I, me, mine zone. We need to start using words like we, us, ours. Our neigborhod, our community, our country. We should be happy to help our fellow citizens. Always. We may need help someday folks. It could happen. Think about it.

Posted by: Dave | December 18, 2006 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Will I change to driving? No. We own only one car, so for me to switch to driving would require me to purchase an extra car. My employer, the feds, will cough up the extra money to make up the congestion charge, and I'll continue to pay $1.25 a day for the ART bus. (I carpool on I-66 home.)

What ticks me off, though, is the completely confusing way that Metro presented these proposed rate hikes. Not only is the agency very reactionary, but also, I still don't know for sure what it will cost me to take the train in. They really should have had a little calculator up on their site. Sure, the outcry would have been still there, but maybe people would not have been so upset. People tend to dislike things they can't understand, and if they can't figure out what it's going to cost them, only that it's more, then it just makes them madder.

Metro needs to find some money for a good PR agency.

Posted by: Arlington, VA | December 18, 2006 9:28 AM | Report abuse

For me, Metro is a slower, more expensive alternative. When we start to have transit systems that aren't design for 'people who don't own a car' and are designed around people who 'don't want to drive' or 'wanted a faster/cheaper alternative to driving' then I'll start taking public transit. But most public transit is design as 'better than nothing' and not a real alternative...

Posted by: Andrew | December 18, 2006 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Driving to work vs Metro'ing to work --

They take the same amount of time, when you factor in round trip from Alexandria to Rosslyn. Driving is definitely more expensive, with parking and gas factored in. With rising rates, the gap will narrow. However, Metro will still win for these reasons:

1. Lower insurance premium.
2. I can always use the excuse: "Metro was late, therefore so am I"
3. Less wear and tear, and miles on your car, which means the car holds value much longer (I have a relatively new car).
4. Not driving in this area's traffic means that you have zero odds of getting into an accident.

Metro is as reliable as guessing the traffic in this area. I would much rather be stuck in a train then in traffic.

Posted by: T | December 18, 2006 10:19 AM | Report abuse

I already pay an outrageous $3 each way for an express bus. If this was to increase, which it for now is not slated to, I would definitely start driving - or figuring out some way to commute via bike! Every time I take the metro train, I'm sorry I did, it takes twice as long as driving, and there is always some issue with stop and go in between stops, etc that makes me which I had driven. I'd rather be stuck in my car listening to the radio.
However, what I am willing to do is to pay slightly higher taxes in Virginia to support a dedicated funding stream for Metro from the 3 areas that use it (DC, VA and MD). It's outrageous that this doesn't exist.

Posted by: CS in Alexandria | December 18, 2006 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Whether a particular individual chooses to ride Metro misses the bigger picture. As the comments here clearly show, Metrorail is not sustainable on many levels. It costs too much to build and operate. It is unreliable. And, perhaps most important, it is not competitive with most car trips.

The annual budget follies ought to be a wake up call. Instead of building massive extensions to Metro (like the Post advocates), we ought to develop a transit strategy that actually works and is affordable over the long term. Other cities are doing it -- why can't the Washington region figure it out?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 18, 2006 7:26 PM | Report abuse

The responses I got from the metrophiles are exactly what I expected:

Ignorant name-calling and insults from a bunch of spoiled crybabies who exaggerate the impact of Metrorail on traffic congestion and think they are owed an entitlement becauise of what they consider to be a morally superior lifestyle choice on their part.

Fact: we STILL have the nation's third-worst congestion in spite of the heavy inveswtment in Metrorail. Insults and namecalling won't change that.

And society does NOT owe you an entitlement.

And so far, none of the metrophile crybabies have explained why society owes them a free/cheap ride other than the childish "because we say so!" Idiots!

Grow up and pay your way.

Posted by: CEEAF | December 19, 2006 12:16 PM | Report abuse

I rarely take Metro except for weekends and to see some event downtown.

Most recently, we have had to take the 12F bus from Centerville to Vienna Metro. We share a car and I needed to go to class on Tuesday nights so my fiancee would take the bus from Centerville to Vienna Metro to get home on Tuesday nights.

One night, none of the evening buses showed up. He had to wait in Centerville at the bus stop for more than 2 hours until I got of my class in Alexandria and found out that he was stranded in Centerville. We are not in a hurry to depend on the buses ever again.

Several times over the course of my living here, I have checked out using public transportation but taking the metro was always twice as long as driving. Frankly, I like my sleep and now I am concerned that I too could get stranded out in the middle of nowhere because Metro never showed up.

Posted by: Billie | December 19, 2006 1:52 PM | Report abuse

There are some common threads here:

Metro is not reliable.
It often takes more time than driving.
It is overcrowded and inefficient.

So why are we spending $4 billion to build rail to Tysons - when the state's own study showed that it would not reduce traffic - especially because the county wants to use rail as an excuse to triple - that's right, triple - the density of Tysons?

And the state and federal governments have sworn off paying for any of the inevitable cost over-runs. In fact, the Fairfax county executive has said the county will pay that. But who asked the taxpayers?

Might any of this be related to the fact that the Chairman of the Fairfax Board gets most of his campaign money, as well as his personal paycheck, from Tysons landowners? Could the fact that many Supervisors of both parties come from the development industry have anything to do with it?

It's time for people to make leaders accountable. We get the government we deserve.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 20, 2006 11:16 PM | Report abuse

Driving is not the answer.
I already gave up on Metro - it is unreliable and crowded. Driving would cost $200 per month in parking alone in my DC office.
Cycling is free and keeps me in good shape.
Of course you need your office to have facilities like showers, lockers and racks.
Cycling can also be a challenge as you have to cross roadways or sometimes share the road with DC's motorists who seem reluctant to believe we have a right to commute this way.

Posted by: Bike commuter | December 22, 2006 10:08 AM | Report abuse

"Cycling can also be a challenge as you have to cross roadways or sometimes share the road with DC's motorists who seem reluctant to believe we have a right to commute this way."

I have no problem with bicycle commuters. My problem is with their attitude.

First of all, you have no "right" to "commute this way"; road use is a privilege.

My problem with most bike commuters is their propensity to selectively obey the traffic laws and their lack of respect for others - namely drivers and pedestrians. Bike commuters act as if THEY own the road and the rest of us are a barely tolerable nuisance.

And far too many bikers think they only have to obey the law when it suits them. Every day, I see bikers jump onto the sidewalk to beat the traffic (and endanger pedestrians) as well as blow past stop signs and run red lights.

And don't get me started on the clowns who think they have the "right" to slow down traffic lanes. These bikers are arrogant enough to think they actually have the RIGHT to make drivers wait, for no other reason than they're too gonzo to use the nearby bike trails.

You don't dare blow your horn at them for fear of being cursed out, spit upon, or getting your car trashed.

You demand that drivers "share the road". Be responsible and follow the rules.

Posted by: CEEAF | December 30, 2006 9:10 PM | Report abuse

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