Metro could apply core charge
The Metro board has a couple of options on the peak of the peak fare surcharge that it plans to consider on Thursday. On Tuesday, we discussed the basic idea: a special charge tacked on during Metrorail's busiest hour and a half in the morning and in the afternoon. But the transit staff also has given the board several ways to apply the surcharge based on geography.
The basic peak of the peak plan would apply to riders anywhere in the system, but the variations would limit the damage to riders using the most congested part of the system. Here's how it could work.
-- Apply the surcharge to riders exiting these core stations in the morning peak of the peak (7:30-9 a.m.) or entering them in the afternoon peak of the peak (4:30-6 p.m.). This would affect
21 stations 23 stations in the District and Virginia. Of those stations, Metro says, 17 19 have the top usage during the morning rush. [Metro did a recount on the numbers.] Add in four others -- Arlington Cemetery, Mount Vernon Square, Waterfront and Pentagon City -- for the sake of continuity. So the outer boundaries of the core surcharge zone would be Mount Vernon Square, Dupont Circle, Rosslyn, Crystal City, Navy Yard, Capitol South and Union Station.
-- Apply the surcharge to all riders going to or through the congested core. Under this variation, some stations drop out of the calculation: Capitol South, Crystal City, Pentagon City, Dupont Circle, Federal Center SW.
The Metro financial staff has two main goals in offering all these peak of the peak options: Spread out the ridership and make enough money to balance the budget. They've got to balance the budget. That's their job. But the board members can consider jurisdictional politics. You can be sure board members have counted how many core stations their constituents use.
But the transit staff has provided a useful breakdown of the practical and financial considerations.
If you charge all riders traveling at the peak of the peak, you capture revenue from all riders and the fare adjustment is relatively easy to implement. But it affects all riders and loses some of the congestion pricing elements intended to change riders' behavior. For example, even riders traveling during the morning peak from Bethesda to Shady Grove or from Georgia Avenue to Greenbelt -- not really crowded trips -- would have to pay the surcharge.
If you limit the surcharge to travel in the congested core, you are charging the riders who put the heaviest demands on the system's capacity. But the staff acknowledges that this core concept is harder for riders to understand than the blanket surcharge, and may make them even angrier than they are now.
One thing that tends to tamp down rage about fare increases: About 40 percent of the commuters are federal employees, who can get a subsidy to pay for their trips. Riders who express a public opinion tend to favor the fare increases over the proposed service cuts.
What's your opinion? If you have to pay a peak of the peak surcharge, would you rather it be a blanket charge or targeted to the congested core? If you're a Metro rider, please share whether your current trips are during the peak of the peak and where you board and exit.
May 12, 2010; 3:24 PM ET
Categories: Metro , Transportation Politics , transit | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, metrorail
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