Metro juggles regional interests
Metro probably will keep its night-owl rail service on weekends, its bus-rail transfer discounts and its current charge for daily parking. Metrorail riders probably will pay a surcharge to ride at the height of rush hour and those night owls will pay peak fares. All riders are likely to pay more to ride Metrorail, Metrobus and MetroAccess.
That's the sense of what came out of Thursday's meeting of the Metro board finance committee. Don't lock in your personal transportation budget based on what I just said, because the full board still must vote on all its budget-balancing proposals, but discussion in the finance committee is usually a good gauge of what's going to happen.
First, the transit staff outlined why it needs the board to make decisions: There must be a balanced budget -- at least on paper -- as of July 1. The staff is counting on starting most fare increases and service cuts on June 27. If that gets delayed, the budget gets out of balance again and more revenue or cuts will be needed.
Then the board members went after the staff and one another. Each board member was defending the interests of his or her jurisdiction. For example, Jim Graham of the District wants to protect the late-night hours on weekends, because that's good for the D.C. bar and entertainment business. He also hates proposals to cut bus service, as does Chris Zimmerman of Arlington. Catherine Hudgins and Jeff McKay of Fairfax don't want the daily parking rates to rise, because that hurts suburban commuters who park at the outer stations and take long, expensive Metrorail rides.
They need to trade things, so no class of riders gets hurt too badly because of the budget problems. They also need to show where the money will come from to cover whatever service or fare it is that they want to protect.
What you don't get out of all this, as Zimmerman pointed out, is an overall sense of a fare and service policy: What are the overall goals of Washington's transit service and how are fares set and services aligned to achieve those goals?
Train riders will want to pay close attention to the continuing debate over the proposed peak of the peak surcharge. I think the board is very likely to approve the surcharge. It would be added to the peak rail fare between 7:30 and 9 a.m. and between 4:30 and 6 p.m. The peak of the peak charge could be anything from 10 cents to 50 cents. Rail riders probably would start paying this extra charge in August, rather than June 27, because the fare gate technology still has to catch up.
Here are some issues regarding the peak of the peak fare:
-- It's probably going to be used in part to subsidize the night-owl riders and the station parkers.
-- It's meant in part to encourage riders to travel at less congested times. But it's unclear how many people who ride during those hours really can travel earlier or later. You can tell from the hours involved that we're talking about many commuters who don't have the luxury of setting their own schedules.
-- If you're one of those long-distance riders, you avoid the proposed 50 cent parking increase, but you might wind up paying as much as 50 cents extra for this peak of the peak surcharge as well as the amount the board finally approves for a regular fare increase.
-- Metro doesn't have much experience with the surcharge idea, so the finance staff doesn't know with any certainty how much extra money will be raised. It adds a degree of uncertainty to the budget process.
The peak of the peak fare is likely to become one of the main issues among riders as this budget heads toward resolution.
April 29, 2010; 12:20 PM ET
Categories: Metro , Transportation Politics , transit | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, MetroAccess, Metrobus, Metrorail
Save & Share: Previous: NY transit to lay off hundreds
Next: JetBlue coming to National Airport
Posted by: EtoilePB | April 29, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: member8 | April 29, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: DrMeglet | April 29, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ashdaleuf | April 29, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: wb1313 | April 29, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: RockRed | April 29, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: m1ke3i6 | April 29, 2010 5:13 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: destewar | April 29, 2010 8:11 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.