Metro panel passes fare hike to full board
12:30 p.m. Update: A proposal to increase fares at Metro are moving ahead after the finance and administration committee voted to pass the plan to the full board of directors.
On Thursday Metro finance staff presented options for fare increases and service cuts at a committee meeting. The panel decided to send the proposal to the full board, which is scheduled to meet on the issue May 27.
Metro is considering raising fares and cutting services to help close a historic $189 million budget deficit for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Options include a 15 percent hike in rail fares and a 20 percent increase in bus fares.
Peak rail fares could go from $1.65 to $1.90 and bus fares from $1.25 to $1.50.
Also being weighed are new "peak of the peak" rail fares, an additional charge during the service times when ridership is heaviest, from 7:30 to 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
11:22 a.m. Update: The finance committee of Metro's board of directors pressed ahead and approved a motion to recommend a fare hike plan to the full board, but opposition to the action by some board members left a final decision on the fare hike in limbo.
Jim Graham, board member from the District, voted against the committee recommendation. "This is a flawed process," he said.
Board Chairman Peter Benjamin said that because no full board vote would take place on Thursday the board would have latitude to change the fare hike plan at its May 27 meeting.
"No decision is made here other than to recommend something to the board," he said.
Original post: Members of Metro's board of directors are debating whether to take the unusual step of making a decision on a significant fare hike in isolation rather than in the context of the budget as a whole.
Some board members expressed reluctance to take that step.
"I'm very uncomfortable," said board member Jim Graham of the District. Board members Christopher Zimmerman of Arlington and Mortimer Downey, a federal representative, agreed.
"Nothing is decided until everything is decided," he said.
Metro Chief Financial Officer Carol Kissal urged the board's finance committee to provide some guidance to allow the staff to move ahead with fare increase plans and not run the risk of losing revenue if the fare hike has to be delayed beyound the start of the new fiscal year on July 1 and the lucrative July 4 weekend.
"If we got some kind of direction we would be happy," she said.
-- Ann Scott Tyson
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