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Metro considers fare hikes

The transit authority staff, anxious about the long time it will take to implement changes, is asking Metro Board members on Thursday to review a specific set of proposals for increasing fares and fees and cutting service:

-- The increases for Metrorail, Metrobus and MetroAccess would take effect on June 27.
-- The proposals for a peak of the peak fare, for a rail ride surcharge on passengers who don't use SmarTrip cards and for a flat fare charge on weekend riders boarding after midnight would become effective when Metro's technology allows it.
-- The daily parking fee rates would rise by 50 cents and the reserved parking fee by $5.
-- The general manager would be authorized to reduce the parking fee at stations that don't fill up so that Metro would use up that excess capacity.

-- The proposed reductions in Metrorail service would take effect June 27.
-- The proposed reductions in Metrobus service and some other changes in routes, including eliminating some stops, would take effect June 27.
-- Metro would lessen the need for fare increases and service cuts by borrowing $60 million from its capital budget and using it to pay preventive maintenance costs included in the operating budget.
-- Enforcement of a geographic limit on new MetroAccess paratransit customers would start after June 26. The provision would limit new riders to a zone of three-quarters of a mile beyond any point on the regular Metrobus-Metrorail service. That's the minimum service required under the Americans with Disabilities Act. People who use the service already would not be affected by this cost-cutting rule.

The Metro Board's finance committee is meeting Thursday morning at Metro headquarters in the District to consider the staff proposal. The committee, and later the full board, can make changes in the proposal, designed to help eliminate a $189 million gap in the budget for the fiscal year starting July 1.

The staff wants the committee to at least give it some direction on these proposals because it takes so long to make all the changes necessary to set up fare increases and service changes. Among other things, the software behind the vending machines, fare gates and fare boxes has to be updated, as do all the signs on the Metrorail kiosks and the buses. If rail and bus services are cut, maps have to be reprinted and signs removed or changed.

The staff estimates it needs 60 days to get all this set up and is especially anxious about launching the changes just before the big crowds arrive for the July 4 holiday.

By Robert Thomson  |  April 29, 2010; 8:15 AM ET
Categories:  Metro , Transportation Politics , transit  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, MetroAccess, Metrobus, Metrorail  
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