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Feeling the Fares?

How was your Metro ride this morning? Did the commute feel more luxurious, now that you're paying more?

On a Red Line ride from Glenmont to Farragut North, I would not have been able to tell the new fares and fees are in effect until I smacked my SmarTrip card against the fare gate at Farragut North and saw "$4.00" on the readout.

People who park at Glenmont won't pay the new $4.75 fee until they leave this evening. I heard no announcements in the station. The fare calculator sign at the station manager's kiosk was new, but still in that really tiny type, so you'd have to look closely to notice the new charges. (And I didn't see anyone doing that.)

The station manager was helping some people figure out how to buy SmarTrip cards at the one of two vending machines that was in working order. But there were no large groups of confused, or angry, people anywhere. The trains seemed extra quiet on the trip downtown.

One point that some people over 65 have been making to us: We've been saying that off-peak fares remain the same. Actually, seniors who use their reduced fare cards are paying more to ride off-peak. While seniors continue to pay half the "regular" fare at all times, the "regular" fare is the peak fare, and that's gone up substantially.

For example, a senior traveling midday today betwen Glenmont and Farragut North will pay $2. That's half of the $4 I paid during rush hour, but it's a lot closer than it used to be to the un-discounted midday fare of $2.35. In a sense, seniors get a better bargain traveling at rush hour, when they pay $2 but everyone else pays $4 for that trip. I wonder what the impact of this will be on their trip planning.

Metro has put up a notice on its Web site advising bus riders about a problem using SmarTrip to transfer:
"Bus riders paying with a SmarTrip card and transferring to other buses and the rail system inadvertently are being charged the full fare when they transfer.

"The error is expected to fixed on most buses by this afternoon's rush hour and completely fixed by tomorrow morning. Metro apologizes for this inconvenience. We are looking into providing an electronic refund to passengers who were overcharged yesterday and today and more details will be posted about that later today."

Did anyone experience problems today -- aside from paying more today than you did on Friday for the same trip? How many noticed what the fare reader displayed when you exited the fare gate?

[Lena Sun, who covers Metro so well for The Post, had an online discussion today at 11 a.m. along with staff writer Eric Weiss, who covers roads. Sun was out this morning talking to Metro riders about the fare increases.]

By Robert Thomson  |  January 7, 2008; 9:44 AM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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Here's the biggest adsurdity of today's fare increases for me--what happened this morning to coin-op parking in Rockville.

Rockville Metro Station has a 500-space standard lot, and a separate 200-space coin op lot. The coin op lot is further from the station, requires walking across a busy street, and of course accepting the hassle of using coins. In exchange for that you formerly got a modest discount on daily parking compared to the regular lot--at 25 cents for 45 minutes a 10 hour day worked out to $3.50 rather than $4.00 in the regular lot.

Market incentives worked well, with at least 100 of us loyally using the coin lot and freeing a corresponding number of spaces in the regular lot.

Well, so much for that. At 25 cents for 15 minutes in the coin op lot effective today, those 200 spaces are now officially useless for daily commuters. Way to price an asset so as to actively discourage use, Metro. We coin-op folks will now all pile into the regular lot, displacing those who customarily arrived later.

Meanwile, over on the coin-op side, it would not surprise me at all if Metro takes in less revenue under this regime than it did at the old fare.

Do I think anyone will monitor this and adjust the situation if overall usage of spaces and total payback on assets are less under the new regime than the old?

Let's just say I am not holding my breath.

Posted by: Fristrated in ROckville | January 7, 2008 10:22 AM | Report abuse

I now pay $4.35 (up from $3.65) to travel from Franconia to McPherson Sq. This morning there was some sort of problem that resulted in stops and starts, so the ride was like every other day. I doubt I'll get anything more for my fare than I did on Friday.

Posted by: cab91 | January 7, 2008 10:29 AM | Report abuse

As much as I love coming in to my office (really), I think its time to start teleworking.

My fare increase was also 70 cents (Franconia Springfield to Farragut West). Was it my imagination or were there noticeably fewer passengers on the train?

In contrast, my bus had more than a dozen riders today - double the usual number.

Posted by: mallemployee | January 7, 2008 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Has anyone figured out how Metro is advertising fare hikes of only $0.30 - $0.60 when my fare went from $3.70 to $4.45? Last time I did substraction, that was a $0.75 difference.

Posted by: commuter | January 7, 2008 10:52 AM | Report abuse

My commute stunk this morning. I waited 10 minutes for a yellow line train at King St. Meanwhile, two VRE trains pulled out of Alexandria's train station during the time I was waiting on the Metro platform. That's pathetic when the VRE is running quicker than the Metro. Plus, because the yellow line was running slow this morning, the train was jam packed. Nice! However, I do totally enjoy the irony that the first day I'm paying increased fares, the service totally stinks. Hilarious!

Posted by: frog7694 | January 7, 2008 11:00 AM | Report abuse

commuter: The base fare is going up .30 and the maximum fare that they charge is going up .60 to $4.50. They didn't say that maximum increase for a person was .60, just the maximum fare that they charge is up .60 to 4.50.

Posted by: Rich | January 7, 2008 11:05 AM | Report abuse

The ride from West Falls Church to Farragut West is now $3.00 each way for me, in addition to the now $4.50 daily parking fee (which will almost certainly rise by $.25 in July). I only pay $12 to park next to my building, and I get there in half the time of taking Metro. I've decided to drive from now on. Metro claims that this is the first fare increase in 4 years. Not exactly: Metro introduced new fares in June 2004, so it's only 3 ½ years since the last increase.

Posted by: Annoyed in FC | January 7, 2008 11:06 AM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: commuter, that wasn't clear to me either, until a commenter here on the blog pointed it out on Friday.

Here's now Metro explains the various increases: The Metrorail rush-hour base fare is increasing 30 cents, to $1.65 per
trip. The maximum fare is increasing 60 cents, to $4.50. But trips under 15 miles may increase up to 75 cents.

Posted by: Robert Thomson | January 7, 2008 11:07 AM | Report abuse

From Friday's question:
Question: The blue bus is 35 cents w/a paper transfer. What are they going to do?

Posted by: ami | January 4, 2008 11:18 AM

When I do use Metro, I do a bus-rail in the morning and a rail-bus in the afternoon. I don't yet have a SmarTrip card and need to factor in the additional fare, both bus and rail, that I will have so I can decide if I need to purchase one. Will I need to pay $1.35 for my bus ride home without a SmarTrip card?

By the way, I would need to go out of my way to get one before I take the bus.

Posted by: Historian | January 7, 2008 11:18 AM | Report abuse

When I did my rail-to-bus transfer at the Pentagon this morning with my SmarTrip card, I was charged $1.25 instead of $0.35. The driver said it was doing that all morning and had no suggestions as to what to do for a refund.

Looks like somebody didn't program the new fares correctly.

Posted by: P***ed off at the Pentagon | January 7, 2008 11:26 AM | Report abuse

If you can telework, you should.

Get out of my armpit.

Posted by: metro rider | January 7, 2008 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Hi. This is Lena Sun. I cover Metro for the Post. Re the overcharging on rail-to-bus transfers: Metro did not program the SmarTrip transfer time properly so that's why you were overcharged for your transfer. Folks who were using bus-to-bus transfers were also overcharged if they used their SmarTrip card.
Metro says most of the problems should be fixed by this afternoon's rush hour and all the problems should be fixed by tomorrow morning. And they plan on issuing electronic refunds to those who were overcharged on SmarTrip.

Posted by: lena sun | January 7, 2008 12:18 PM | Report abuse

For those mentioning telecommuting, if you can do it, give it a try. I do it periodically and it's quite nice. Eliminating the commute is but one benefit; I find that the elimination of interruptions at the office (e.g., people who stop by just to talk, etc.) is perhaps more valuable.

Posted by: Rich (not the same one as before; the one who frequently posts here) | January 7, 2008 1:02 PM | Report abuse

I cannot understand the logic behind the increases. The fare from Shady Grove to Medical Center is now $3.20 during rush hour (up from $2.65), while the new fare from Medical Center to Metro Center (a longer distance, if I am not mistaken) is $2.90.

It appears this was pretty poorly thought out.

Posted by: Frank | January 7, 2008 1:07 PM | Report abuse

We should all call, fax, write and email the obstructionist Republican Senator Tom Coburn from OKLAHOMA(!) who is the cause of our pocketbooks getting hit for NOTHING. I, for one cannot easily absorb $30 more per month. Trains were so overcrowded today, I am going to beg to change my hours. From yesterday's Post:
Bills have been introduced in the U.S. House and Senate that would provide $1.5 billion over 10 years in dedicated funding for Metro provided that the District, Maryland and Virginia together guarantee to match that amount. The bill would help rehabilitate the system's aging trains, tracks and buses. All three jurisdictions have pledged to match the federal amount.

But the Senate bill has been blocked by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), even though the bipartisan measure has overwhelming support in Congress, Cardin said.

"If not for Senator Coburn, this bill would have passed the Senate and would probably have been law. He is the holdup," Cardin said.

Posted by: Deborah | January 7, 2008 1:09 PM | Report abuse

We, (the metro riding public) are paying for mismanagement of funds at metro and it will be found out, hopefully sooner rather than later. Also the service seems worse rather than better. So much for consumer satisfaction!

Posted by: grw5459 | January 7, 2008 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Frank, the new fares are based on the actual distance you travel (price per mile). The old fares were based on the number of stations. While it seems like Shady Grove to Medical center should be shorter, a quick search on google maps lists that trip as 10.3 miles and the trip from Medical Center to Metro Center as 8.8 miles (estimates of course because cars don't go the same way as trains, but roughly this makes sense).

I forget the actual break down but it was something along the lines of 1.65 for the first 4 miles of rail, then more for each additional mile over that up to a certain max. Dr. Gridlock had posted it before but I can't seem to find it.

Posted by: Laura | January 7, 2008 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Good to see that Coburn is doing his job, unlike the rest of Congress

Posted by: Anonymous | January 7, 2008 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Regarding the distances between metro stations, don't look at the metro system map, it isn't even close to being to scale.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 7, 2008 2:06 PM | Report abuse

As the orange line train unloaded a full trainload of people this morning after only 1 stop due to "mechanical difficulties", there were lots of resigned comments about "so this is what we're paying more for?"

Posted by: Vienna | January 7, 2008 2:48 PM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: Laura and Frank, this is what I've got on the fare/distance issue.

The charge for stepping aboard the train at rush hour goes up 30 cents. Then the charge for additional miles between three and six goes up by 5 cents. Then the charge for miles over six goes up by 4.5 cents. The maximum fare is capped at $4.50, which is 60 cents higher than it used to be.

You can see that doesn't convert into number of stations traveled. (And you can see why we avoid using it when we're trying to help readers figure out how much their fares are going up.)

Posted by: Robert Thomson | January 7, 2008 3:37 PM | Report abuse

I considered my options in light of the fare and fee increases. I was a Greenbelt commuter until parking at the station and riding into downtown became about $30/mo. more expensive than carpooling with my lovely wife a few minutes closer to Baltimore than to DC, picking up the MARC train, then finally catching Metrorail at Union Station.

You know, overall it costs less, I get more time with my wife, and my commute takes about the same amount of time. At the end of the day, I'm a little happier and far less stressed out. Too bad for Metro that I came to find that out only for the fact that they raised the parking fees by as much as they did. I probably would have grimaced but accepted the fare hikes otherwise.

Posted by: Pete | January 7, 2008 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Since the bus fare using SmartTrip cards did not change, Metro overcharging (full fare without the transfer discount) passengers using the SmartTrip card on transfers from the train to the bus today was inexcusable. I was not aware of this problem when I was coming home and was charged full fare on the bus after transferring from the Orange line. Metro's statement that it is "looking at" providing refunds and not that it WILL provide refunds for overcharging customers is also very poor customer service.

Posted by: Cathy | January 7, 2008 7:30 PM | Report abuse

You're all a bunch of whiners. Why don't you just walk to work?? Oh gee, maybe because Metro makes it easier than walking. Then SHUT UP. Pay your fare or get off the system and let me ride it without all you pathetic whiners clogging up the system.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 7, 2008 8:32 PM | Report abuse

"You know, overall it costs less, I get more time with my wife, and my commute takes about the same amount of time."

Gee, I'll really miss you Pete. Thanks for the two seats that your morbidly obese frame will not be clogging up.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 7, 2008 8:34 PM | Report abuse

"As the orange line train unloaded a full trainload of people this morning after only 1 stop due to "mechanical difficulties", there were lots of resigned comments about "so this is what we're paying more for?"

Yeah, and maybe if half of you weren't morbidly obese, the train could have functioned. Take a look at yourself before blaming Metro. And if you weren't prepared to take public transit, then maybe you shouldn't have moved all the way out there you pathetic little loser.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 7, 2008 8:37 PM | Report abuse

Where do you people expect metro to get the money to make all of these improvements? It's called inflation - deal with it. And if you can't afford an extra 20-30 dollars a month, you might have a few more important problems then metro hiking fares.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 8, 2008 7:26 AM | Report abuse

it's the fatties that keep getting the door stuck, it's the mexican-quality trains that don't work the rest of the time

Posted by: Anonymous | January 8, 2008 11:39 AM | Report abuse

how about this for smart fares: base fares on passenger weight (you take up more room, you pay more, including for luggage) but then automatically refund fares for anyone stuck in a delayed train or a lurching train or a train that loses lighting or air conditioning (might even take that out of the driver's pay)

metro should be able to figure out how to do that in about 700 years

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