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Metro Hearings Start Tonight

If I printed all the letters coming in about the Metro fare increase proposals, the Dr. Gridlock column would be nothing but that till the end of the year. Most oppose the plan, but some say fare hikes are needed. Just about everyone has questions or comments comparing the increases with the current level of service.

L'Enfant-Michael Williamson.jpg Metro trains pass at L'Enfant Plaza Station. (Michael Williamson)

Metro management says the cost of the service is increasing. Customers are not focused on Metro's internal issues. They relate the cost of the service to the quality of the product.

Here are extracts from some of the letters. (You can write to me at These aren't weighted to reflect majority sentiments in the mailbag. Rather, I wanted you to sample the range of ideas people have about what should be done, since the Metro fare increase hearings start tonight.

Dear Dr. Gridlock.
Just a simple comparative question about Metro's fares. How can expensive New York City run their trains 24 hours, seven days a week and simply charge a $2 fair regardless of distance or time traveled without government subsidies and Metro has so many budget problems?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Parking at the Metro is already expensive and with the proposed increase will be cost prohibitive. I assume Metro is trying to discourage parking at their stations with the fee increases and increased reserved parking at even higher costs. Increasing reserved spots just means that I would have to get to the Metro even earlier than I already do to park in one of the nonreserved spaces or pay additional fees of currently $45.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Since Metro is trying to increase revenue to close next year's budget shortfall, I suggest John Catoe and the Metro Board consider charging market rates at Metro parking lots. Instead of a 50 cent increase at all lots, Metro should try larger increases at the lots that fill up first. Similarly, Metro should increase the price of reserved parking spaces.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Can you see any possible justification in Metro charging me up to $1.60 more for a roundtrip train ride while charging my coworker who rides the bus nothing more than he pays now (sorry, 20 cents if he didn't have his SmartTrip card)?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:
As a daily Metrorail rider, I think Metro should get more revenue from drivers, through the use of tolls at the DC line and a tax on parking in all downtown garages. This would encourage more people to switch to Metro.

Tonight's hearing should draw a lot of Orange Line riders. It's in Reston, at the Bechtel Conference Center, 1801 Alexander Bell Drive. All the hearings begin at 7 p.m., but there's an open house starting at 6:30 p.m.

This is the rest of the schedule:

-- Metro headquarters, 600 Fifth Street NW in the District.
-- Montgomery County Council Building, 100 Maryland Ave., Rockville.

-- St. Luke's Center, 4923 East Capitol St. SE in the District.
-- Arlington County Board Office, Courthouse Metro Building, Room 307, 2100 Clarendon Boulevard in Arlington.
-- Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex, Town Hall Room, 8001 Sheriff Road in Landover.

By Robert Thomson  |  November 13, 2007; 7:43 AM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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School-age youths are using metro unsafe measures for recreational activities.

Playing on the trains,opening doors while trains are in motion to enter another car, eating and leaving trash on the trains, using loud foul language and laying on two seats not wanting to move to permit others to sit beside them.
TOO MUCH, TOO MUCH Ignorance for decent riders to endure.

Posted by: Katie Shephard | November 13, 2007 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Thomson,

Glad to see that you're posting reader mail, but you have to vet for accuracy here as well. Could I just say anything I want, factual or not, and then you'll post it because it's a "sample [of] the range of ideas people have about what should be done"?

The first letter asserts that NYC's transit has no government subsidies. That's just flat false. It's great that someone has an opinion here, but you're just fanning the flames of something false by allowing that to be part of the record here. You should really post an update and verify for your readers here on this blog that that's just not true.

Posted by: IMGoph | November 13, 2007 11:16 AM | Report abuse

I guess I now have an incentive to switch to the 38B metrobus and pay a $1.25 fare from Rosslyn to Farragut Park rather than taking the orange line and paying $1.65 peak. Right now the fare difference is just 10 cents. At 40 cents, that adds up to $4/week in savings by taking 38B rather than the orange line. yes, I'm cheap enough to switch to 38B for $4/week or $200/year in savings.

Posted by: Buses | November 13, 2007 4:33 PM | Report abuse

As a former New Yorker, I can assure you that NYC's mass transit systems receive plenty of government subsidies. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority controlls the NYC Subways, Metro-North Railroad, Long Island Rail Road, NYC Busses, and Nassau County Long Island Busses. They also own and operate the toll bridges/tunnels connecting Queens/Brooklyn to the mainland, as well as 3 other smaller bridges (Henry Hudson, and two at the Rockaways). The MTA receives subsidies from all member jurisdictions, but it also receives general subsidies from all of New York State, since MTA is a state agency and not a city agency.

The Subways/busses actually have some of the highest farebox recovery ratios of transit systems in the nation. Meaning the subsidies still exist, but they are smaller than other transit systems. The two railroads are big money losers (the State of Connecticut picks up the tab for the Metro-North lines and stations in CT). The big cash cows are the bridges and tunnels, which cost $4.50 to cross one-way. With the subsidies from the bridges and tunnels, the government subsidies are much lower than the would otherwise be.

The Port Authority also has a similar system. They maintain the ports, the World Trade Center, the NY to NJ bridges and tunnels, and the PATH trains from NY to NJ. The bridges (especially the George Washington) and airports provide a large influx of cash that is mostly put towards PATH and the 2 money losing tunnels. So again, govt. subsidies for PATH trains from NY and NJ are less than they normally would be since the PATH trains are operated by the same agency as other cash cows.

Metro does not have that luxury.

Posted by: Woodley Park | November 13, 2007 4:52 PM | Report abuse

School-age youths are using metro unsafe measures for recreational activities.


Posted by: Anonymous | November 14, 2007 7:55 AM | Report abuse

To add a little perspective, the NYC subway system runs a $3.3 billion deficit a year, made up by the state. In other words, the taxpayers in general pay for about half of the system not counting capital improvements. For Metro, there is no "state" to pick up the whole deficit tab, so a subset of the taxpayers (the riders) have to come up with the money via fares. Maybe not as good as in NY, but not very unfair.

Posted by: Laszlo | November 14, 2007 3:58 PM | Report abuse

as long as the parking lots fill up, rates should keep going up too

Posted by: Anonymous | November 14, 2007 5:19 PM | Report abuse

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