Metro isn't the NYC subway, Part 1
Both cite other systems, including New York's, where all rides in the five boroughs, on rail, bus or a combination cost $2.25. The Doc suggests that we would never adopt such a system because Metro is "resistant to change" and such changes would "launch political wars." But if politics weren't an issue, should Metro aspire to New York's flat fare approach?
No. While a flat fare is appealing, Metro fills a fundamentally different role in the region than the New York City Subway does in New York. The subway only goes to the five boroughs. Commuters from Long Island, New Jersey, Westchester and Connecticut ride three different commuter rail systems, whose fares, like Metro's, are based on distance and in most cases on peak vs. off-peak times, as well. New Jersey Transit's fares, for example, range from $1.50 to $16.50.
If Metro were like the New York subway, it would only go to destinations in the District and Arlington, and everyone from Maryland and elsewhere in Virginia would ride a much-expanded MARC and VRE. Those riders would have to change to Metro at Union Station or L'Enfant Plaza, like commuter rail riders have to change at Penn Station, Flatbush Avenue or Hoboken for PATH.
As Matt Johnson has explained, Metro is a different type of system than the New York subway, a "regional rail" system more analogous to BART in San Francisco and just as close to Philadelphia's SEPTA Regional Rail commuter trains (fares $3.50 to $18) as to the city's Market-Frankford Line ($2 cash, $1.45 with token).
Sure, Metro's fares could be simpler. We could switch to a zone system like London's. Inevitably, some people's rides would get cheaper and some more expensive. But it's worth investigating, and would be a more sensible and appropriate simplification than a flat fare.
Next: Are bus rides too cheap?
David Alpert is founder and editor of Greater Greater Washington. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.
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