Tag Archives: Fares

Customers To Metro: We Can’t Afford Another Fare Hike


At the final public hearing on Metro’s fiscal year 2015 budget, customers who use the system’s paratransit service expressed grave concern over another proposed fare increase.

Several MetroAccess customers who testified at Metro headquarters Thursday evening, some from the Accessibility Advisory Committee, said the hike would force them to skip dialysis and other doctor appointments.

“I’m very grateful for the service because it has allowed me a sense of independence,” an 11-year MetroAccess customer said. “That independence is going to be compromised because [the hike] won’t allow me to take MetroAccess to my doctors’ appointments, it’s not going to allow me to take MetroAccess to church.”

“It’s not only doing that for me, but it’s doing it for the thousands of people who are riders.”

Metro has proposed increasing rail fares by four percent (a hike of 10 to 20 cents per trip) and bus fares from $1.60 to $1.80 with SmarTrip and $1.80 to $2 with cash. MetroAccess fares would increase in line with rail and bus hikes, but no changes would be made to the complicated formula that determines fares. (“Customers may take trips that begin and end less than 3/4 of a mile from the nearest bus stop or Metrorail station and will be charged two times the fastest fixed-route equivalent fare.”) The maximum fare would remain $7.

“I am still feeling the effect of the last fare increase for MetroAccess,” another rider said. Many said the fluctuation in fares makes it difficult to use MetroAccess on a fixed income.

People also testified against a fare hike for rail and bus riders, including a man who said he’s a retired bus driver and regular Metro rider. “The fare, particularly on the rail side, has become unaffordable for many people, low wage workers in this area,” he said. “The people that are making money off the transit system — the Verizon Center, the Nationals stadium, the stores, the developers who are reaping millions and millions of dollars in surplus profit because a good public transit system — these people have the money, and they have to pay for its operation.”

Rodney Green, an economist and professor at Howard University, said it seems Metro’s public hearings “are trying to figure out, ‘Should we get money out of people who park? Or should we get money out of people who ride the bus? Or how should we turn people against each other as we struggle over how to get a few more dollars out of everybody’s pocket?'”

“The reality is that the people who have the money in their pockets aren’t the people who are riding the buses and the trains,” he said.

Ben Ball, the D.C. Riders’ Advisory Council representative, asked Metro officials to be “honest” about where money from fare hikes go to: operational costs. “By themselves, these fare increases are not going to build the infrastructure that customers have been demanding for years,” he said. “If Metro wants to justify an increase in fares for operating expenses, it should focus on the actual operational improvements that increased fares will go toward.” Ball targeted customer service, saying if it was “more responsive and substantive,” that would justify the fare hike.

A smaller number of people, some of whom protested outside Metro headquarters before the hearing, testified against background checks that preclude people with felonies from obtaining many WMATA positions.

“Metro is spending money — literally thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars — doing criminal background checks on people,” the retired bus driver said. “Many people in this community, returning citizens, are being denied the opportunity to work for the public transit system. That’s harming people. If you’re going to hurt people, you better have a damn good reason for doing it, and Metro does not have that.”

Metro general manager responds to riders’ complaints about WMATA service

Metro General Manager Richard Sarles answered two dozen questions from riders duringmy online discussion Monday, but there were scores more we didn’t get to. After the chat, I picked out five that are among the most frequently asked.

Here are those five questions and Sarles’s answers.

Q. Why doesn’t Metro enforce rules about not closing doors while customers are still entering or exiting trains? A couple of weeks ago I was caught in a Metro train door. It closed on both my upper arms as I was just stepping out of the train. It was very painful. There were others still moving in and out of the car. When I complained to the station staff at Pentagon City, their response was the drivers have schedules to keep and I should step back when the bells sound.

A. I am not aware of such a rule. Train operators do their best to provide enough time for boarding and alighting, while not excessively dwelling at any one station to prevent train congestion. We never want to see anyone get injured, which is why we have posters and announcements advising riders that train doors don’t work like elevator doors. When you hear the chimes, the best advice is to step back and wait for the next train.

Q. Why run escalators at closed stations? A few weekends ago, Dupont Circle station was closed because of Red Line track work. Somebody had barricaded the station entrances but decided to keep the escalators running and running all weekend to a closed station. Does Metro now have unlimited resources to keep closed escalators wastefully running, not to mention the unnecessary wear and tear?

A. While Dupont Circle station may have been closed for passengers, inside the station was a beehive of activity, with several dozen workers installing new lighting, upgrading station equipment, cleaning and performing maintenance. The majority of the station escalators were turned off during this time; however, at least two of the long escalators at each entrance were kept in operation to facilitate the movement of workers to and from the station.

Q. Weekend track work. I have been a regular weekend rider of the Red Line but have had a much harder time justifying it ever since the massive off-peak fare increase that brought it in line with the peak fare structure. I wouldn’t mind paying the higher fares for normal weekend service (e.g., Red Line trains every six minutes on Saturdays and every eight minutes on Sundays), but I cannot justify paying so much more for trains that run every 24 to 30 minutes.

I think the best idea would be to have two separate off-peak fare structures, one for normal off-peak service, and one for the greatly reduced service levels when trains are running less than half of normal frequency. This is the only way I can see Metro retaining any customer loyalty through this long but necessary period of intense track work.

A. Working intensively on weekends is the only feasible way for us to catch up on the backlog that developed over many years of inadequate maintenance, and I recognize that longer waits are a burden shared by our riders. Metro is no longer a new system. While the intensity of work and its impact on riders will diminish as we advance Metro Forward [the transit rebuilding program], weekend work — although less intense — is a fact of life from here on out, for as long as there is a Metro system. Off-peak fares are intended to take into account the reduced frequency of trains, including times when track work is in effect.

Q. Refund on delay. If I enter a station , for example, West Falls Church, and upon paying my entrance fare notice a significant delay that’s not posted on the board, why can’t I just exit the station and get a refund? Having to pay for services not even rendered is unfortunate.

A. Metro’s current fare system, which is based on 1990s technology, does not allow for this. To learn about delays before entering the gate, it’s important to sign up for MetroAlerts atwmata.com or check the digital screens at all station entrances that turn red when there is a delay message.

Also, we recently awarded a contract for a new fare payment system, including the eventual replacement of our current fare gates and vending machines. The new system will give riders additional payment options, including using chip-based credit cards, key fobs, smartphones and federal ID cards. It will also give us the flexibility to consider new fare rules in the future.

Q. Parking on weekends. Have you considered charging for Metro parking on weekends? I think casual users (instead of commuters) should pay for parking, too. Why should we take the brunt of all the increases?

A. I am not aware of any local jurisdictions that have considered this. My personal belief is that offering free parking on weekends is a good way to keep Metro competitive with driving at times when traffic is lighter and street parking might be easier to come by.

Dr. Gridlock also appears Thursday in Local Living. Comments and questions are welcome and may be used in a column, along with the writer’s name and home community. Write Dr. Gridlock at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or e-mail .

MetroAccess riders fear impact of fare increases

Riders who have disabilities and use the MetroAccess paratransit service are worried about the impact that impending rail and bus fare increases will have on their own costs.

The transit authority has not proposed any changes in the formula that sets their rates. But in Metro hearings over the past week, many MetroAccess riders have said they would prefer that the formula did change.

MetroAccess users either can’t or can’t easily travel on the regular bus or rail service. Specialized vehicles get them from their homes to their destinations, including doctors’ appointments, physical therapy sessions, shopping or work.

Calculating Metrorail fares can be complicated, but train rides don’t have to deal with this MetroAccess formula: “Customers may take trips that begin and end less than 3/4 of a mile from the nearest bus stop or Metrorail station and will be charged two times the fastest fixed-route equivalent fare, paying no more than $7 per one-way trip.”

What’s clear to the MetroAccess riders is that if the fare goes up for bus and rail riders, it will have a bigger effect on the cost of the paratransit rides.

Regina Lee, a member of Metro’s Accessibility Advisory Committee, a citizens’ panel, urged Metro board members at the Tuesday night hearing in Rockville to consider changes in the formula that would reduce the impact on people with disabilities.

The Metro board could reduce the fare multiplier to something less than double the equivalent fixed-route fare.

Also, Lee said, the board could set a maximum fare for MetroAccess that is less than the current maximum of $7. (The proposed maximum peak fare for Metrorail is $6, or 25 cents higher than it is now.)

Before the hearings began, most public attention was focused on the proposed increases in bus and rail fares. But it’s the MetroAccess customers, rather than the Metrobus and Metrorail riders, who have been making the strongest case for attention at the hearings so far.

One exception was the testimony from Junette Wilson at the Rockville hearing. Wilson, 21, of Gaithersburg is a student at Trinity College. She calculates her current transit cost at $685 per semester. And she’s one of the rail riders who waits at the station of the lower, off-peak fares to kick in. The rail fares are “starting to be unaffordable for a lot of us,” she told board members Tuesday.

After the public hearings are done, the board can’t increase the fares beyond the proposed rates announced before the hearings started. But it can reduce the proposed increases to lessen the impact on riders. And it also can fiddle with the formula governing how the fares are applied to MetroAccess riders.

Two hearings remain:

  • Wednesday, Feb. 5: Arlington Central Library, 1015 North Quincy St., Arlington.
  • Thursday, Feb. 6: Metro headquarters, 600 Fifth St. NW in the District.