Details of Metro Fare Increases

Photo by PoPville flickr user pablo.raw

The Washington Post shares details of a proposed 5 percent increase:

Riders who use paper Farecards would face the biggest change. Whether going two stops or 10, they would pay one-way flat fares: $6 during rush hour, $4 in off-peak times.

The proposed budget would increase rail fares in rush-hour periods by an average of less than 5 percent for those using Smar­Trip cards, according to Metro. The maximum peak fare would rise from $5 to $5.75.

Rail riders would also see changes in off-peak fares. The base fare would increase to $1.70, from $1.60, a trip. The maximum off-peak fare would be $3.50.

Bus fares would increase by a dime, from $1.50 to $1.60. Cash payments would be rounded to the nearest dollar for buses.

Most rate changes would go into effect July 1.

Does anyone still use paper cards? If so, will the greater increase on paper cards encourage you to use a smarttrip card?

63 Comment

  • At some point, it’s going to become cheaper to drive and park vs. take public transportation.

    • In part thanks to the fact Metro is more responsible than State legislatures in that they balance their budget through periodic increases, as opposed to, e.g., state and federal gas taxes which haven’t been raised in decades despite a dramatic increase in quantity and decrease in quality of existing road infrastructure.

      • Agreed, but don’t you think it’s odd that now a single ride on the DC Metro will cost more than twice as much than that of a NY Subway ride?

        • Yeah, but NYC and NY State both subsidize the subway. So, people are still paying for it — just with taxes instead of fares.

          • So? what’s your point? MD, VA, and DC also subsidize Metro. It isn’t like fares are entirely covering the Metro system (or anything close to that).

          • It’s much easier to get the money from a single entity then to get three different governments to agree to share it. Plus, I believe NY just agrees to eat a ton of money and have the Subway run in the red all the time while Metro and the District/MD/VA are always trying to balance things out. (I’m speaking off the cuff here, so might not be accurate).

          • @15th St. NW Resident: I will have to look it up but I seem to recall that passenger fares cover something like 70-80% of the actual cost of each trip. Not sure how that compares to NY (or any other system) but I don’t think Metro is subsidized to nearly the same extent as other systems.

          • The main diff is they way this creature was created and how it has (or hasn’t lol) evolved. Even in LA …LA, car heaven/hell…there’s a regional transportation authority. Chicago, NY-NJ have Port Authority that runs trains coordinates with NJ Transit and CT. What do we have? Cumbersome feudal-like. Timid, boxed in. Still, it moves people and if we didn’t have it God help this region. Ask the poor schmucks who have to deal with commutes from Fredricksburg or Western Maryland, or around reconstituted military bases. Of course the structure isn’t going to change anytime soon barring willpower from MD DC Va and Feds, but at least Metro could show us where and how hikes are benefitting re faster/safer trips, cleaner cars & stations, less crime. That’s not too much to ask.

          • @gdopplerx,

            Metro fares cover 57% of its expense. The taxpayer subsidy pays for 43%.


          • Looks like I was off by a bit: at least according to Wikipedia, fares and other revenue only cover 58% of operating costs.

    • Fiscally cheaper maybe. Maybe. But even if it were, what is the toll on a person’s health when they spend an hours a day trying to drive like 5 miles? All that horn honking and yelling and flipping people off is taking years off their life!

      • Not necessarily disagreeing with you, but what is the toll on someone’s health from being crammed into a metal box everyday with thousands of strangers and if you’re lucky, everything goes on time and smoothly? It’s not like riding public transportation is necessarily any less stressful. And with driving, you are in control of your commute. You can take other routes, you can avoid bad drivers, you can carpool…

    • It’s already cheaper for me to drive from U St to Franconia ($3 in gas round-trip vs $11.30 for metro), and it takes far less time (75 minutes in the car vs 120 if the bus is actually running that day). Counting the time lost and the price of car ownership, I still save around $100 a month.

      I have an odd commute, though.

      • The IRS mileage rate this year is 55.5 cents per mile, which works out to $8 or $9 each way for driving from Franconia to U St. Obviously, I have no idea of your personal car situation, but it’s possible that you are underestimating the costs of driving. It’s easy to do so, since we don’t pay them on a per trip basis.

        • When I was commuting in from Alexandria it was much cheaper to drive. The bus to the metro was $3 each way (sure, I could have taken the non-express bus, but then it would have taken 3 hours to get to work instead of 90 minutes). And then there was the metro fare on top of that. After accounting for all the costs of owning a car, the wear and tear, and the gas, it still ended up being cheaper and faster to drive. And since my girlfriend usually rode in with me the costs were even half of that. It’s no wonder most suburbanites would rather drive than take the metro. Unless you work for the government or some company that subsidizes the cost there’s really no benefit.

  • I think the paper card hike is an attempt to tax tourists.

    Just like most of our parking laws.

    While I appreciate not having to pay more as a resident, I also think it’s sad that our nations capital is one hell of a tourist trap.

    • Why is it unfair to try to get tourists to pay more? We pay more when local governments fund metro, but tourists get to use the system without the local tax burden. Also, they can easily buy a smartrip card. London has the Underground setup in this manner and I managed to get the equivalent of a smartrip card before my first tube ride. I was even sleep deprived after a red eye.
      As for parking, street parking is still a good deal ($2 an hour) so why complain about that?

      • Yeah, but in London what you pay for an Oyster Card (SmarTrip equivalent) is a _deposit_, so if you wanted to, you could get your three pounds back at the end of your trip.

        I think it’s somewhat fascist that the $5 fee for a SmarTrip card doesn’t work this way.

        • It kind of does work that way though. Smartrips let you go into the negative, so if you make sure you have $0 on it before your last trip, you essentially get the cost of your last trip back as if it was a deposit.

          It probably won’t cover the whole $5, but it’s better than nothing.

      • I think the flat rate system works for tourists. How many times have you seen one of them standing in front of a fare card machine desperately tying to figure out how much money they should put in it? This makes things simpler for them, and assuming they’re not traveling during rush hour the fare is not that much worse. Also, those all-day passes are still available right?

    • By “tourists,” I assume you mean the Americans who come here every summer, avail themselves of all of the public resources (both federal and local), and then go home to their states not caring a bit about the fact that DC is treated like a red-headed stepchild by their representatives in Congress. I have a deal for all of our out-of-town friends. Any residents of states that vote for a constitutional amendment to give DC representation in Congress (1 rep. & 2 senators), gets a free week pass on Metro.

      • -1. I’m willing to bet that you moved to DC voluntarily. I did too. If the right to have a voting representative in Congress was that sacred to you, you should have moved to VA or MD. Clearly it’s not that important to the 16,000 folks who moved to DC last year either. Also, DC residents enjoy tons of federal resources that the entire country pays for. Visitors from other parts of the country have just as much right to enjoy these things as locals.

        • Uhh, last time I checked, moving somewhere does not mean that you support everything that goes on there. Most of the time these days it means you found a job here and you couldn’t find one anywhere else.

          If you decide you can only live somewhere that you agree with 100% of the rules, regulations, ordinances, and whatnot, you will be looking a long, long, time.

        • That argument makes no sense. If Alabama was still segregationist and a black person moved there, would you say he deserved to live under Jim Crow laws? Making the citizens of DC second-class is wrong. If you want to keep the current voting system, make DC residents free from federal income tax.

      • This sniveling victim status bullshit from people in DC is getting old. EHN not having a vote and DC not having senators impacts your daily life ZERO. The Federal Government is not oppressing us. Its all a bunch of whiny hyperbole. Yes, it is unfair – but so is having multiple lines at the grocery store instead of just one main line that all the cashiers pull from.

        This is the capitol of our country, everyone has a right (perhaps an obligation) to visit and learn and enjoy themselves. Talking about how we should financially abuse them because Congress refuses to do the right thing is outrageous. Tourists are taxed enough. 10% on restaurant food, hotel tax, the dumb ass parking situation. Being hit for 2 bucks a trip just for using one type of ticket over another is dumb. If WMATA wants everyone to use the method thats cheaper for them, then ONLY OFFER THAT METHOD.

        Instead, they’re trying to fix their years of mistakes and mismanagement on the backs of families trying to show their children everything in our city that is great. It will cost a family of 4 almost 50 bucks to go from their hotel to the museums and back.

        WMATA doesnt realize theyre basically going to subsidize the taxi market and shoot themselves in the foot with lower ridership numbers.

        What? WMATA making a dumb decision… NEVER!

        • You couldn’t be more wrong. First of all, desiring basic voting rights in the federal system does not make one “sniveling.”. Second, DC’s lack of representation affects everyone who lives in the city in countless ways. After all, Congress can still override acts of the city council and the citizens have no way to affect that process. Finally, I don’t feel sorry for tourists having to spend more to travel around the WMATA system. When you travel, you pay surcharges on hotels, rental cars, etc. Why can’t Metro do the same thing? As for “whining hyperbole,” I think your post has given us a great example of what that looks like.

      • you’re killing me “1 rep. and 2 senators”? i would be hard pressed to find 3 people in dc politics that deserve to be on the streets without an ankle bracelet, much less be in the us congress.

        • You just described Louisiana and Illinois perfectly. Should we take away their voting rights? After all aren’t the last 2 or 3 Illinois governors in jail?

  • Yikes! another reason I’m eternally glad I live in bicycling distance to everything I need.

    • Yep, and since they raised the prices back in 2010, I have used my bike for ALL of my grocery trips. Between owning your own bike or using Cap Bike Share, people can vote with their feet on this.

      • Unfortunately, that assumes that EVERYONE who disagrees with the system is able to be as mobile as you – and it completely ignores the portion of the ridership that simply cannot bike or walk places.

        • Trixie, you make a good point. I was basically echoing the other poster, who mentioned being glad to bike as an alternative. You are quite correct, though. For a lot of people, biking to work is not an option. It’s a shame that people are forced to make the choice between awful metro service or awful traffic.

          • I agree completely. There’s just no “good” option for a lot of folks – pretty much, you’re screwed either way if you’re not within a decent bike commute AND willing/able to bike.

            I bike to metro most days but I hate to when it’s really cold.

  • I think we all knew yet another fare increase was coming. This is actually a somewhat reasonable proposal. At first the paper farecard fare increases seemed a bit extreme, but if they install Smartrip vending machines in every station, I guess it makes sense.

  • burritosinstereo

    I’m one of the lucky folks who gets compensated by work for my commute, but HOLY HELL six bucks?! My out of town friends are not going to like this. I should just keep an extra Smartrip card at home for them….

    • pcat

      i actually do keep an extra SmarTrip card at home for my visitors. I put an initial amount on it and each visitor loads it up after their visit. It works very well.

      • saf

        That’s what we do. We actually have several (my family travels in groups). It makes my life so much easier – hand the visitor(s) the smarttrip card, give them directions, no need to explain “bus costs this, train costs vary,” just tell them it’s got $20 on it, please top it back up to that on your way home one night. Works great.

  • An increase just in time for Metro to close Dupont South. Booo!

  • Well, it is official. Metro is officially in its full death spiral. The 3rd raise in 4 years totaling what…a 20% increase in fares.

    Their excuse each time it to “upgrade” the system and to accomodate maintenance but service has gotten fundamentally worse the past 3 years.

    Already this week the yellow line has been screwed during the morning rush both days rendering it useless. Last week the yellow line was ‘effed 1 day, the blue line 2, the red line one. I frequently have headways of 10 to 15 minutes during rushour when the system is working fine. I am sorry, but a 12-15 headway during RUSHOUR isn’t a mass transit system, not even close.

    Metro is already unusable during the weekend as every weekend it is single tracking, delayed etc where having to wait 20 minutes or more in a downtown core station is commonplace.
    You can look at their budget. Half of this years budget increase is to pay for pensions and labor costs, not new equipment or upgrades.

    Metro pays out nearly 200k more PER employee in pension benefits than the average of the six jurisdictions listed (Fairfax, Arlington etc) whose pension benefits aren’t exactly “lean”.

    One could kind of understand if the revenue increases actually had somethign to do with improving the system but they don’t.

    • +1;

      I bet there are a whole lot of bus drivers and station managers with little or no education making more than $100,000 per year, before benefits.

      • You complain about this, yet I bet you will be the first one to complain when the people with little or no education who CAN’T find a good job are jumping you for your iphone.

    • “Metro is officially in its full death spiral.”

      What does this mean? You think Metro will no longer be operating in, say, 5 years?

  • I hate this system, I hate Metro.

  • as long as they don’t cut yellow line service, i dont care what they do

  • I miss the clean and quiet DC Metro. After living in NY for about 6 months I really miss the DC Metro. Agreed NY Subway is much more efficient, and definitely cheaper than DC. But DC’s metro is so clean and safe and not full of stinking hobos who practically live in the subway trains here.

    I miss everything about DC. I HATE you PoP for making DC look so awesome through you blog and make me miss it even more.

    • LOL at the reversal of the usual NYC vs. D.C. comparison. 😉

      New Yorker, you should come back!

    • Allison

      I visited NYC for the first time recently and have decided the DC metro is in fact *so* much better. The express trains in NYC are a nice perk, but the underground complexes are claustrophobic mazes that are just as dirty if not dirtier than DC metro stations.

  • I’m okay with this as it is common knowledge to all users that the system is not only falling apart but needs to be expanded (new lines and infill stations).
    I’ll gladly pay the 5 percent but would ask for the following 5 improvements:
    1. Regional transit authority (buying in bulk and having one administrative office is cheaper than multiple organizations – no more ART, Ride-on…).
    2. Contributions from participating states and municipalities that are codified in statutes – no more ad hoc funding.
    3. Toll the freeways and bridges.
    4. Outsource escalator maintenance and turn the platform to mezzanine escalators into stairs – cheaper to maintain and they aren’t that long.
    5. Do not touch operating hours – if anything expand late night service.

  • Metro could save millions if they were allowed to fire incompetent employees. Unfortunately, the union won’t let them.

    • I just looked over the FY13 WMATA budget documents ( Slide 9 is very interesting.
      I’m a fan of unions and value their contribution to our and global society. However – it looks like the pension benefits to WMATA employees are not in line with regional averages. With 35% of the increased operating costs (from FY 12 to 13) coming from pension and fringe benefits – it is about time that WMATA transferred its employees from a defined benefit pension plan to a defined contribution (401K) model. The fact that WMATA employees pay ZERO into their pension benefits (which are 160% of the regional average) is atrocious. Further, a 9% cost of living increase is ridiculous – especially considering that federal workers are on a two-year pay freeze and that unemployment is high.
      I think WMATA needs to fix the pension issue IMMEDIATELY – it’ll only get worse (see delayed maintenance.) I’ll pay an additional 5% but I ask that WMATA work to reign in its overly generous compensation packages.
      On a positive note I fully endorse the plan to run 100% 8 car trains by 2020 (see slide 29), though the pessimist in me doubts that.

      • WMATA has a contract with its employees, and cannot unilaterally change their pay and benefits any more than your bank can raise the interest rate on your fixed rate mortgage.

        The reason the employees got a 3% raise for each of the last three years is because that was part of the terms the neutral arbitrator imposed when the union and WMATA couldn’t agree to a new contract.

        • @JCM – I realize that – but this should be front and center on the next contract renegotiation. Also there is nothing prohibiting WMATA from asking the union if they’d be interested in renegotiating the contract now for a longer period and include some of these items.
          Basically my argument is that WMATA is way too generous and these costs need to be reduced.

  • Another excuse for me to move to NYC (waiting for the torches to come after me on this one)!

  • Metro could do away with some of these fare hikes if they were actually willing to stand up to the union, which does nothing but shelter lousy employees and overpay employees. Not all metro employees suck, but a lot of them do, and the union makes it nearly impossible to fire them. The constant rolling over to the union and its demands is pathetic. If you want to start to fix the operating cost issue with metro, it needs to start with a hard look at their union contract.

  • There is no other way to say it. The 6 dollar flat fare for using a paper ticket during rush hour is fucking ridiculous. Thats a 50% markup over the non rush fare. Its a terrible idea and I’m generally in favor of fare hikes on Metro.

  • This is a conspiracy by the Taxi Cab lobby.

  • I do agree with the decision implemented during the last go-round to make paper farecard prices higher than SmartTrip, but this fare hike is out of control.

    Say a family of four wants to hit the zoo for the afternoon. If one leg of their trip is during rush hour, the total fare to get there and back is $40. Why would tourists bother with Metro at all?

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