Tag Archives: metro

Metro rate-hike plan assailed as unfair to poor, disabled

Metro meeting (WTOP/Ari Ashe)

GREENBELT, Md. – At the first of six public meetings on a proposed Metro fare hike, several dozen people came to the Greenbelt Marriott to criticize the plan as punitive to the poor and disabled.

A majority of those who attended ride MetroAccess. Some were blind; others wheelchair-bound or otherwise handicapped. Others were reliant on the bus as a primary way to get around.

Under Metro’s proposal, fares on the rail lines would increase four percent, or about 10 to 20 cents per trip. Metrobus fares would go up from $1.60 to $1.85 with a Smartrip card, from $1.80 to $2.00 for cash. Express buses would jump from $3.65 to $4 and airport buses would go from $6 to $7. MetroAccess fares will increase in line with Metrorail and Metrobus, but fare costs are calculated per trip rather than a flat rate.

Parking would also increase 25 cents across the board and an additional 50 cents at Metro lots in Prince George’s County.

“Saving up for MetroAccess fares is like saving up for gas for a car. And a huge chunk of your monthly income, especially during the wintertime, goes to those MetroAccess trips,” says Rochelle Harod, who depends on the service.

Several members of the Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC), including Chairman Patrick Sheehan, testified before Metro General Manager Richard Sarles, Assistant General Manager Jack Requa and board members Alvin Nichols and Marcel Acosta.

“People who are transit-dependent are really having a difficult time. They cannot get in their vehicle. They are dependent on rail and bus. Keeping those fares low will help people get to work, get to school. I think we don’t need a fare increase right now,” says Sheehan.

Other members of the AAC pointed out some of the stark realities of those using MetroAccess.

“People are making choices where they go for chemotherapy, physical therapy, and they shouldn’t have to make those choices,” says Paul Semelfort.

Denise Rush says a fare increase in not right.

“MetroAccess people are those who are not working, who are sick. People [who] have to choose between going to dialysis and buying food or medicine,” Rush says.

Other attendees also pointed out how this plays into the larger regional and national picture.

“Look at what’s going on right now in regards to the minimum wage. We have a movement where the minimum wage is being increased. So the rate increase [on Metro], in some degree, undermines that for the people most in need of some relief. This is already one of the most expensive areas in the country to live in,” says Gus Griffin.

Raymond Colbert argues that Metro should find other ways to raise revenue, through advertising or deals with local attractions, rather than passing the bill onto customers.

“Why is that every time they need money, [they say] ‘Let’s raise fares on the customers’? As if that’s going to draw in more customers,” he says.

Metro did see a drop in ridership shortly after the last increase went into effect in the summer of 2012, with customers upset over the hikes.

The debate comes as Congress has cut the transit benefits for federal employees from $245 to $130 per month while increasing the parking benefits. Both Metro and AAA Mid-Atlantic are concerned the move will drive people back into their cars and clog already-congested interstates such as I-270, 66, 95 and the Capital Beltway. Federal employees make up more than half of the Metro ridership, so fare increases on top of the cuts in benefits could mean trouble.

Metro’s board of directors could make a final decision on whether to accept the fare increases or reduce them at its meeting in March. If approved, the fare hikes would take effect July 1.

Customers have several more chances to testify about the fare increases:

  • Thursday, Jan. 30
    Springfield Hilton
    6550 Loisdale Rd., Springfield, Va.
    Franconia-Springfield Metro (Blue Line) – 1.2 miles
  • Monday, Feb. 3
    Mathews Memorial Baptist Church
    2616 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE, Washington, D.C.
    Anacostia Station (Green Line) – 0.3 miles
  • Tuesday, Feb. 4
    County Executive Office Building, Cafeteria
    101 Monroe Street, Rockville, Md. (entrance on Jefferson Street)
    Rockville Station (Red Line) – 0.2 mile
  • Wednesday, Feb. 5
    Central Library
    1015 N. Quincy Street, Arlington, Va.
    Ballston Station (Orange Line) – ¼ mile
  • Thursday, Feb. 6
    Jackson Graham Building (Metro Headquarters)
    600 Fifth Street NW, Washington, D.C.
    Gallery Place-Chinatown Station (Red, Green, Yellow Lines)

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Congress members call on Maryland to ‘reevaluate’ Purple Line bidder


Two members of Congress have asked Maryland transportation officials to “reevaluate” a firm bidding on a contract to build and operate the light-rail Purple Line because its majority owner once transported prisoners to Nazi death camps during the Holocaust.

Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) wrote to Maryland Transportation Secretary James T. Smith Jr. on Jan. 27, asking for the review.

The company in question, Keolis, is a member of one of four consortiums recently chosen by Maryland transportation officials to bid on a public-private partnership to design, build, operate, maintain and help finance a 16-mile Purple Line between Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français (SNCF), which owns 70 percent of Keolis, was paid to transport 76,000 prisoners to Nazi death camps in World War II, according to historians.

State officials have said they expect to choose a private partner on the $2.2-billion transit proposal by early 2015. The partnership likely would be a 35-year contract that could be valued at more than $6-billion, one of the largest contracts ever in Maryland. State officials also are seeking $900-million in federal grants and a low-interest federal loan as part of the public-private plan.

“If awarded, the State of Maryland’s contract with SNCF for the Purple Line may be paid out of the very pockets of taxpayers who the company once willingly transported to the death camps,” the letter said. “While we look forward to the innovative Purple Line, we do not believe that it should be done through the partnership of Keolis as an entity of SNCF until its victims are awarded their long overdue justice.”

The letter asks Smith “to take into consideration the relationship between Keolis and SNCF as it reviews finalists for the Purple Line.”

Keolis officials have said the company, which was founded in the late 1990s, had nothing to do with the Holocaust. SNCF officials have said the French government has paid billions in reparations to Holocaust victims and their families for deportations that occurred under the Nazi-backed Vichy government during World War II.

SNCF’s chairman issued a formal apology to Holocaust victims in 2011.

“I understand their feelings, and I respect their feelings,” ­Alain Leray, president of SNCF America in Rockville, has said of Holocaust survivors. “It’s a highly emotional issue. . . . If it’s a historical issue, let’s deal with it. If it’s a commercial issue, let’s deal with it. But mixing one with the other doesn’t seem like a good idea.”

Keolis first drew scrutiny in the Washington region in 2010, when a Holocaust survivors group protested its winning of an $85 million contract to operate Virginia Railway Express trains, its first U.S. rail contract. Earlier this month, Keolis won a $2.68 billion contract to operate its second U.S. system, Boston’s commuter rail. SNCF has no U.S. rail contracts, Leray said.

2011 Maryland law that requires companies bidding on state commuter rail (MARC) contracts to disclose any ties to the Holocaust targeted a Keolis bid to operate two MARC lines. That contract went to a lower bidder.

Last year, Maloney and Ros-Lehtinen introduced legislation that would allow Holocaust victims and their families to seek damages against SNCF in U.S. courts.


Metro General Manager Richard Sarles

Many long-anticipated changes are coming to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Streetcars are expected to begin service on H Street NE and the Silver Line is slated to start running to Reston and Tyson’s Corner. New fare cards and rail cars are also in the works systemwide. But many old problems and concerns about on-time performance, maintenance and safety remain. Kojo and WAMU 88.5 reporter Martin DiCaro talk with Metro General Manager Richard Sarles about where the system is headed.


Richard Sarles

General Manager and Chief Executive Officer, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA)

Martin Di Caro

Transportation Reporter, WAMU

Related Links

Metro General Manager Richard Sarles explains why WMATA doesn’t use the transportation industry’s standard for measuring on-time performance. Sarles said WMATA compares measurements against their own internal numbers, rather than industry numbers, to check improvement. “The standard we use was here before I got here,” Sarles said.

Oops! Metro posted wrong signs for its new Silver Line

View image on Twitter


Metro posted incorrect signs at its Metro Center station — a mistake that is expected to cost some money to fix.

The transit agency is in the process of installing hundreds of signs throughout the system at its 86 rail stations to show the new Silver Line in Northern Virginia that will run through Tysons Corner to the edge of Reston. The Silver Line is expected to open sometime in 2014 although no firm date has been set.

But some of the new signs Metro workers started to put up at stations in the system had a mistake.

About a dozen signs at the Metro Center station went up earlier this week showing five stations that the Blue Line doesn’t serve. According to the incorrect signs, the Blue Line made stops at Court House, Clarendon, Virginia Square, Ballston and East Falls Church.

That’s wrong.

Those five stops are only served by the Orange Line. The Blue Line splits off from the Orange Line at the Rosslyn station.

The mistaken signs was first reported Tuesday by Adam Tuss at NBC 4.

Metro said it regrets the error and couldn’t immediately explain how it happened.

Dan Stessel, a Metro spokesman, said Wednesday that the signs have been taken down and “new signs will go up this week.” Stessel said.

He said the cost to fix the signs would be less than $2,000, but he said he did not know an exact price. He said the contractor that made the signs will be responsible for making the fix.

“May this be the biggest problem we deal with for [Tuesday],” he said. “If that’s what the news is about Metro, we’ll take it.”

A primer on Metro’s proposed fare and fee increases

Metro has proposed increases in its rail, bus and parking fees and invited the public to comment.

Metro has proposed increases in its rail, bus and parking fees and invited the public to comment. (Robert Thomson – Washington Post )

Starting Wednesday night, Metro will begin a set of six public hearings on its proposed fare and fee increases, which would take effect around July 1 if given final approval by the Metro board.

On Monday, I hope to have Metro General Manager Richard Sarles as the guest on myonline chat to discuss the fare proposals, the Metro budget and the long-range prospects for service improvements. You can submit questions and comments now for Monday’s discussion.

But for those considering attending one of the hearings, here are the basics of the Metro revenue proposals.

Operating budget
The transit authority budget is divided into operating and capital programs. The operating portion will cover the expenses for fiscal 2015, which starts July 1. Metro revenue comes from two main sources: the local governments that support Metro and the riders. The local governments account for 45 percent of the revenue, and the riders pay about 52 percent. The proposed operating budget is $1.76 billion.

To balance it, Metro’s leaders hope to get $44 million more from the local governments and about $30 million more from the riders, through the fare and fee increases.

The Metro board can adjust the rail, bus and parking charges to reach its revenue target, but it can’t approve charges that are higher than those it advertised for these public hearings. Otherwise, it would have to hold another round of hearings.

Metrorail. The average increase in the rail fare could be as much as 4 percent. The peak boarding charge could go from $2.10 to $2.20. The off-peak boarding charge could go from $1.70 to $1.75. The boarding charge is good for a three-mile trip. Beyond that, Metro adds charges based on distance traveled. The maximum peak fare could rise by a quarter to $6. The maximum off-peak fare could rise 15 cents to $3.65.

Riders will recall that some off-peak fares increased far more than the average when Metro raised the charges two years ago. Because of the complex way Metro calculates fares, some of those off-peak boosts amounted to 60 percent changes in certain station-to-station fares. In this proposed budget, Metro puts a cap of 15 percent on any station-to-station increase in the off-peak fare.

Rail passes. The cost of a one-day, unlimited rail pass could rise from $14 to $14.50. Other types of passes could rise to these levels: Seven-day short trip pass, $36.50; seven-day fast pass, $59.75; 28-day fast pass, $239. The Metro staff has proposed creating a one-day pass for visiting conventioneers, which would cost $10. This pass would not be available to the general public.

Metrobus. Several different proposals would affect bus fares. For riders using SmarTrip cards, the regular fare could increase by as much as 25 cents, to $1.85.
The express bus fare could go up by 35 cents, to $4. The fare for the airport buses could rise by a dollar, to $7.

There are two proposals that could affect bus riders who pay cash. Sarles proposed eliminating the cash surcharge. Metro imposed the surcharge several years ago to create an incentive for switching from cash payments to the plastic SmarTrip cards. But the transit agency staff says that removing the surcharge now wouldn’t have much impact on SmarTrip use, because riders now have other incentives to use the cards, including the ability to make transfers with them and to load them with seven-day bus passes.

An alternative proposal would keep the surcharge. Under this scenario, the regular fare with cash could rise by 20 cents to $2, and the express fare with cash would rise by as much as 50 cents, to $4.50.

Parking. The cost of parking at the lots and garages operated by Metro could increase by 25 cents. Prince George’s County has requested an additional increase of 50 cents to park at the Metro lots and garages in the county. That additional money could be used in several ways: For payment of current debt service that is financing construction of Metro parking in the county, for maintenance and rehabilitation of parking facilities, or for payment of debt service to finance construction of new Metro parking in the county.

Another fee proposal focuses on the Morgan Boulevard and Largo Town Center parking facilities, the nearest Metro parking to FedEx Field. The rate for parking during stadium events is now $25, but the Metro staff says that leaves the space under-utilized. Since the space is farther away from the stadium entrances than other parking fields and Metro doesn’t allow tailgating, the fee isn’t competitive. So the proposal would cut the charge to $15 during stadium events.

Capital budget
The other major portion of the budget pays for equipment and for the long-range rebuilding program. The proposed budget for the next fiscal year is $1.137 billion.

Metro officials expect that federal money will account for $487.5 million of that sum. About $522 million will come from state and local governments, and the remainder from other sources of financing. It doesn’t come from rider fares or parking fees, but the public still can comment on this part of the budget, which includes the weekend rebuilding program.

Hearing schedule
Each public hearing will be preceded by an informal information session at 6 p.m. This is a chance to talk with Metro officials about any transit topic, whether or not it’s part of the fare-increase agenda. The formal public hearings will begin at 6:30 p.m. This is the chance to offer testimony on the proposed budget and the fare increases.

Dates and locations:

Wednesday: Greenbelt Marriott, 6400 Ivy Lane, Greenbelt. A free shuttle will operate to and from the Greenbelt station.

Thursday: Hilton Springfield, 6550 Loisdale Rd., Springfield. A free shuttle will operate to Franconia-Springfield station after 7:30 p.m.

Monday: Matthews Memorial Baptist Church Fellowship Hall, 2616 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE in the District.

Tuesday: Montgomery County Executive Office Building cafeteria, 101 Monroe St., Rockville.

Wednesday, Feb. 5: Arlington Central Library, 1015 North Quincy St., Arlington.

Thursday, Feb. 6: Metro headquarters, 600 Fifth St. NW in the District.

Wednesday morning Metro troubles on four lines

Updated at 9:47 a.m.

Normal service has resumed at the Rosslyn station on the Blue and Orange lines.

Updated at 8:30 a.m.

The cold continues to affect Metro’s rails and trains Wednesday morning, as four of its five lines have had troubles.

Delays continue on the Green Line after trains had to share a track between U Street and Georgia Avenue.

There was also a problem with an earlier disabled train at Columbia Heights station but that problem was resolved by 8:32 a.m.

As of 8:44 a.m., there were still some delays from Orange and Blue and Green lines as a result of the morning’s problems, according to Dan Stessel, a spokesman at Metro.

Updated at 8:02 a.m.

There have been troubles on four of Metro’s rail lines Wednesday morning, making it a rough commute for riders.

At 7:45 a.m., Metro said there were delays on the Blue and Orange lines to Franconia and Vienna stations because of a disabled train at the Rosslyn station.

Trains shared a track between the Foggy Bottom and Clarendon stations until about 8 a.m. Metro said riders should expect residual delays in both directions.

Earlier in the morning, there were problems on the Red and Green lines as well.

Trains on the Green Line sharing a track until about 7:30 a.m. Officials said delays continued because of an earlier problem with a disabled train outside of the West Hyattsville station.

The earlier troubles on the Red Line were fixed. At 7:12 a.m., Metro sent an e-mail alert saying that normal service was back at the Tenleytown station after earlier issues in that area.

Updated at 7:41 a.m.

Riders on Metro Red Line should expect delays Wednesday morning because of earlier troubles with a train that was malfunctioning at the Rhode Island Avenue stop.

Earlier in the morning trains on the Red Line were sharing a track between Friendship Heights and Van Ness stations in an unrelated problem. That situation was resolved, Metro said.

Updated at 7:31 a.m.

Trains on Metro’s Green Line are no longer sharing a track but delays continue in both directions because of an earlier situation that involved a disabled train outside the West Hyattsville station.

For more information on transportation-related stories click here.

Original post at 6:03 a.m.

Metro riders on the Green Line should expect delays in both directions Wednesday morning.

Trains are sharing a track between Fort Totten and Prince George’s Plaza stations because of a disabled train outside the West Hyattsville station.

There was an earlier problem on the Red Line because of a disabled train but that problem has been resolved.

Metro had a disabled train on its Red Line outside the Tenleytown station around 6:30 a.m. but the train was moved by 6:51 a.m. Trains had to share a track between Friendship Heights and Van Ness stations. Just before 7 a.m., trains were no longer sharing a track but Metro officials warned that delays could continue in both directions on the rail line.

VRE sent an email alert Wednesday morning to its passengers warning that power is out at its stop at the L’Enfant Station at 6th and C streets SW. VRE officials said riders should use caution when getting on and off trains because the platforms are dark.