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Today's read: Public rates Metro

Some slippage in respect: Although a majority of Washingtonians still have high regard for the transit system, the percentage of frequent Metrorail riders giving it a top rating declined from 26 percent in 2005 to 8 percent in a Post poll. Assessments of the system's reliability also declined among those users, from 78 percent in 2005 to 60 percent. (Jon Cohen and Ann Scott Tyson)

The Post poll on transportation issues was conducted while Metro was in the midst of hearings on the fare increases and service cuts that could close the $189 million gap in its upcoming budget. Budget hearings provide a chance to vent about service as well as to argue for or against a particular proposal. I went to two hearings -- the one in Vienna and the one in Rockville -- and my Post colleagues covered others.

There wasn't much venting about the quality of service. People who take the trouble to go to evening hearings usually have something specific to lose, and that was the case here. Most of the riders whom I heard testify wanted the Metro board to know how much they needed MetroAccess paratransit service, or a particular bus route or late-night rail service.

Most people who expressed an opinion on service cuts vs. fare increases said they would prefer the fare increases, though many called on local governments to increase their contributions to Metro so that the impact of the fare increases would be blunted.

Considering how many proposals the Metro board had placed on the table for public consideration, there really wasn't much discussion of the general state of service, the problems of the past year or the need for rethinking basic issues about transit operations.

In other words, the riders were pretty mild on Metro, perhaps reflecting the generally high regard for the system found in The Post poll, despite the decline I mentioned. The transit authority staff is going to present a report to the board that will sum up the comments from the six hearings, plus the many written statements people sent to Metro. But if I were a board member -- or a local official who had a say in the Metro contribution -- I'd be thinking: Okay, riders are pretty happy. They're generally willing to pay a fare increase and keep the service about where it is now.

[Watch for more stories detailing information from the poll. On Sunday, Ashley Halsey III wrote about the findings concerning distracted drivers.]

By Robert Thomson  |  April 5, 2010; 10:18 AM ET
Categories:  Metro , transit  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, MetroAccess, Metrobus, Metrorail  
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