Friday Question of the Day – Will Metro Fare Increases Affect Your Commute?

Photo by PoPville flickr users ericandkatherine

WMATA releases word on what is looking like the inevitable, a substantial fare increase:

Metro’s Board of Directors provided guidance to Metro staff today, May 27, to begin to work on a number of fare adjustments in the transit agency’s FY2011 operating budget, subject to final Board approval on June 24. The fare changes are expected to be enacted system wide on June 27. The new fares will generate $108.7 million to help close a $189 million shortfall and build a sound budget for the new fiscal year.

During the public comment period on the budget, the overwhelming majority of riders said that they preferred fare increases instead of service reductions and no service reductions are planned.

Beginning June 27, Metrorail fares will increase 18 percent, with the peak period boarding charge increasing from $1.65 to $1.95. The maximum peak period Metrorail fare will increase from $4.50 to $5 for customers who pay with SmarTrip® and from $4.50 to $5.25 for customers who pay with cash.

Metrobus fares will increase 20 percent, from $1.25 to $1.50 for customers who pay with SmarTrip® and from $1.35 to $1.70 for customers who pay with cash. The price of a Metrobus ride remains lower than bus fares in most major Metropolitan areas. New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle each charge $2 or more for a bus ride.

In addition to Metrorail, Metrobus and MetroAccess fare changes, the following changes also will take effect June 27:
• The Metrorail-to-Metrobus and Metrobus-to-Metrorail transfer period will decrease from three to two hours;
• Reserved parking fees will increase from $55 to $65. All other parking fees will remain unchanged; and
• The annual fee for renting a bicycle locker at Metrorail stations will increase from $70 to $200. It is the first increase in locker fees since the inception of the program in 1978. A reserved, secure place to store a bicycle is only 55 cents a day.

The Board of Directors is expected to vote on the final FY2011 budget at its June 24 meeting.

Will this affect your decision to use metro or metrobus to commute to work? With the increase will anyone consider driving instead of taking metro? Do you still support the fare increase over service cuts?

37 Comment

  • Nope. Still cheaper than downtown parking. Faster some days, too.

  • nope. because the UMD parking pass and the gas is still cheaper than the metro. so i’ll continue to drive.

    wmata is so dysfunctional. it’s sad.

  • When considering volunteering for a very early shift at TBD I actually thought, “well, I won’t have to pay peak-of-the-peak.” Wow what an upside!

    I will definitely consider biking and walking more often to avoid higher fares where possible.

  • Doesn’t affect me much since I bike to work anyway.

  • Doesn’t affect me at all. Glad it just came down to a little extra change instead of my service being cut.

    • That little change could easily add up to over $500/yr for regular commuters. So it’s not insignificant.

  • doesn’t affect me either. i walk. also glad to see no service cuts planned.

  • The lack of reliability on the red line (broken tracks/single tracking/delays) changed the number of days I take the metro vs. driving. Now I only take metro once a week and usually on Fridays because the traffic is worse.

    Build out reliable wi-fi and the 1.5 commute becomes 1 hr of work time. Probably not going to happen in my lifetime though.

  • This puts getting a monthly garage spot and driving in at a cheaper price than parking outside of the city and metroing in.

    I miss the old dollar metro days.

  • I walk or bike to work. I only ride Metro when absolutely necessary. Sometimes I ride the bus during really cold or snowy weather. So the fare increase doesn’t really matter to me.

  • Nope – I work for the federal government so my commute is paid for. I wonder if people will try to work from home more often though.

  • Unfortunately, no. I live in the Maryland and take Metro to work. I’m a contractor, so even if I could get a parking pass for my building, I would have to pay for it. And driving to the city every day would be a bitch of a commute.

    Time to let my company know that they should consider a cost of living allowance for those of us who take Metro. And time to start applying for jobs in the burbs.

  • it will definetly impact me, but i don’t really have an issue with it. i consume the service so i should pay for it. even then, we’re not paying the true cost of service – transit is heavily subsidized and metro is lucky if it recovers even half of the cost through my fare.

  • No change. With smartbenefits/metrocheck I’ll still get enough to use bus & train whenever I need to.

  • Of course this has to happen on my birthday. Sorry everyone. Maybe I’ll bike a couple days a week to work. But I get a subsidy like most, so this isn’t too big of a deal. Better than service cuts. Either way, it’s the poor that are get screwed by this.

    • Happy Birthday, DF!

    • Yeah, but we can’t bankrupt the most important piece of public infrastructure in the region. We also have reached the expiration date on “deferred maintenance” from not raising the fares gradually over the past 20 years.

      There’s nothing stopping the district from abandoning fare controls on Metro and then directly subsidizing whomever they choose is entitled to a subsidy. I think it would make Metro a lot more financially healthy.

      And happy birthday

  • I bus every day both ways, and this won’t affect me in the slightest. Still the cheapest, most convenient way to get to work. I’m happy to pay a bit more, and hopefully metro will meet me halfway and try to be good stewards of the money.

  • WMATA lost me as a rider years ago. Overcrowded 6 car trains during rush hour … w/ no AC. Yes, I’d love to pay more for that pleasure.
    It makes me sad, too though because I love the Metro train/bus system here (in theory) and know that my $8/day contribution (commuting on bus, then to train from CoHi to Rockville) could potentially help prop things up. But I CANNOT afford that and gas is definitely cheaper.
    Plus, in my car I don’t have to listen to someone else’s phone blasting fuzzy, crappy right behind my head. I freakin’ hate that … get some headphones.

  • Why doesn’t metro just enforce fares better?

    If they have stiffer penalties for those who try to ride the metro for free by sneaking past the gate and have more enforcement like they did in NYC, things can improve.

    Also, they should make sure all of the bus machines are properly functioning and inform the drivers to be more strict in not letting people pass who don’t properly pay. Almost every day on the bus I see at least one person get a free ride because the machine isn’t working and gives that annoying buzz when they swipe their card, or the rider doesn’t have money left on their card and they play dumb and pretend they don’t understand until the drive tells them to go ahead and sit down.

    I doubt it would totally replace the shortfall that caused the fare hike, but I bet it would be a really good chunk of it.

    • For real? In my entire 20 years in DC I’ve seen someone jump the turnstile once. And they got chased down.

      • I’ve seen it more than that in less time, one time the MTA guy just knocked on the window and didn’t even get out of the booth. But I intended my comment to mostly focus on the bus issue.

  • Yep, it will add on about 5 dollars to my weekly commute. Not too bad considering that even can’t get you two gallons of gas now (which easily gets used daily in stop and go traffic.) I take the metro from DC to Vienna and drive my car into work from there. I might drive a couple days a week now pending on gas prices.

  • The combination of fare hikes and really crappy, irregular metro service means I am driving to work these days. I just bought a bike, though, so perhaps I will start biking.

  • Nope. I commute from CoHi to New Carrolton + a bus every day. I decided when I moved into DC that I could either afford to live in the city or live in the ‘burbs and make car payments + insurance + gas. I chose to live in the city, and, even with the hikes, it’s probably still cheaper than owning a car. I’d probably care more though if I had a choice.

  • I have no problem with this. I would much rather pay a little extra than suffer service cuts.

    Actually I’d even be in favor of another 10 cents or something it they could run metro more often off-peak.

    Despite all it’s problems metro is still a tremendous asset to DC. The maintenance issues shouldn’t make people think about walking away from it, they should make us realize how important it is to fund it better.

    Metro is one of the least subsidized systems in the whole country, too. We suck, generally, for not being willing to pony up more money both individually, and from taxes.

    • Actually the metro board sucks for not managing the situation better. DC used it’s veto vote to keep the fares way lower than they needed to be to protect low income riders. At the same time, they didn’t provide money out of the DC budget to give Metro fair compensation for holding the fares down for what is primarily a DC service. They tried to screw MD/VA by continuing to ratchet up per mile fares and the suburban parking rates while keeping in town rates low. Why would MD/VA want to subsidize DC residents more than they already were?

      There are many ways to provide enough funding so that the system works marvelously and there are many ways to compensate low income riders without bankrupting Metro. The WMATA board just found a way to create a system that didn’t work.

  • I’m one of the few people that support the fare increase, but feel they didn’t do enough. In my opinion, they had an opportunity to simplify metro, reduce operational costs, and maintain the same level of service. Instead, Metro made the entire system more complex.

    The “peak-of-the-peak” charge is confusing. Metro has decided to make the, already complex, fee structure even more complex. It is so complex, in fact, that metro needs a few extra months to simply implement the changes.

    I was also surprised to see that they didn’t increase the parking fees.

    • I don’t agree with the complexity issue. Why is it important for the vast majority of users to know exactly how much their fare will be in advance?

      Unless you’re a tourist and are trying to ride just once or something, it doesn’t make sense. You buy a farecard or have a smartcard. You refill it or buy another when it runs out.

      The added layer of complexity doesn’t make a shred of difference as far as I’m concerned. I’ve never once tried to figure out my exact fare in advance, who cares? It’s not like I’m going to change my mind because of it.

  • I will choose to drive or bike to work more often. Either biking or driving takes less time for me than the metro from LeDroit to Alexandria. Of course bike riding requires a sink shower here at work. However, I enjoy taking Metro so I will always takes it some days, just fewer.

    • Raymo: you may want to check with some local gyms/health clubs in Alexandria – a lot of them will let you get a really inexpensive ‘locker room membership’ so you can use the showers there. Not saying you smell or anything, just tossing out another option to the sink shower.

  • The increase will have no effect on me at all, and I’m actually happy WMATA finally is swallowing this bitter pill. I view this as getting fares more aligned with what they should have been all along. Good transit infrastructure is worth paying for. If you don’t believe that, try living in a place like Atlanta, where there was a conscious decision 30 years ago NOT to have comprehensive public transit (subway there is one north-south line, one east-west) and people sit in their cars ungodly amounts of time every day to get to and from work.

    And I actually like “peak of the peak” hours concept — it’s the sort of price discrimination that should happen. Theoretically, that should balance the use load a little more and bring operational costs down or if “peak of the peak” riders’ demand isn’t that flexible, at least they will be paying more of their own way.

  • Nope. Not since I started biking or walking to work. When I first got here I didn’t know all that much about the transportation system until people told me, so metro was just my “go to.” My progression went like this:

    Move to DC: “Oh, I can take the metro every day”
    2 months in: “Oh, I can take the bus!”
    3 months in: “Oh, walking isn’t so bad!”
    6 months in: “I should get a bike!”

    Now I only take the bus when it’s bad weather or I’m not feeling all that great. The 1.5 mile walk/bike ride is great!

  • will definitely affect us. commute out to Virgina from Columbia Heights at peak of peak; no smartbenefits from stingy company

  • I’ll be affected – probably $6 more per week once the full fare kicks in August. But it’s still worth the added time to read the paper, never having to search for parking, not having to buy gas from BP, etc…

  • I walk, bike or bus/Metro to work so this won’t affect me too much. It’ll probably only force me to suck it up more often if the weather is bad! On days I walk I will often bus or Metro back, so it may influence that behavior a bit.

    Captcha: Klansmen’s Notices. Yikes! Really, Captcha?

  • Nope. I gave up long ago. From West Falls Church to the VA its over 16 dollars a day including parking. I get a free parking pass. I’d rather drive–where I can eat breakfast, listen to the radio/books on tape/silence and not be in someone’s armpit for an hour and half.

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