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Hearings Set on Fairfax Bus Fares

Fairfax County plans to hold two hearings to get public comment on the proposed increase in the Fairfax Connector fares.

If the increase is approved by the county's Board of Supervisors, the base fare would rise from $1 to $1.35 for those paying cash, but would go up by a quarter for those using SmarTrip electronic fare cards. See other proposed changes here.

The county, like Metrobus, also plans to eliminate paper transfers. The changes would take effect on Jan. 4.

Beyond that, the county's Department of Transportation is asking the county board to adopt a new policy that generally links future fare increases on the Connector to Metro's fare changes. (At the moment, Metro doesn't have a fare increase proposal on the table, but the transit authority board has been talking about creating a predictable schedule for such increases.)

You see examples of two trends in the Fairfax proposals. One is that most of our regional transit systems are trying to get their riders to use SmarTrip cards. It's cheaper and more efficient -- even helps the buses with their schedule problems.

The other trend is unfortunate: During a year when many commuters are paying more attention to energy costs and looking to leave their cars at home, the transit systems are under financial stresses that lead to higher fares or service cuts -- sometimes both.

I don't mean that as a beef about the Fairfax plan. The Connector fare last went up in 2004. That's a pretty decent interval.

My concern is that this region isn't done expanding, and the suburban buses and commuter train lines are going to become even more important than they are now. Commuters need to cross that threshold and get to know them. Fare increases and service cutbacks don't help in that regard.

These are the details on the two public hearings:

-- 10 a.m., Nov. 1, South County Center, 8350 Richmond Highway, Alexandria.
-- 10 a.m., Nov. 8, North County Governmental Center, 12000 Bowman Towne Drive, Reston.

The county asks you to sign up in advance if you want to speak at either meeting. Call 703-324-1120, TTY 703-324-1102.

If you can't attend but would like to comment, call the Fare Changes Hotline at 703-324-1641 and leave a message, or send an e-mail to FairfaxConnector@fairfaxcounty.gov. By regular mail: Fairfax County Department of Transportation, Transit Services Division, 12055 Government Center Parkway, Suite 1034, Fairfax, VA 22035, Attention:Christy Wegener.

All comments must be received by 4 p.m. on Nov. 14.
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By Robert Thomson  |  October 21, 2008; 12:22 PM ET
Categories:  Commuting , Transportation Politics , transit  
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