New Metro budget means higher rail fares - KMSP-TV

New Metro budget means higher rail fares

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Fares for riding Metrorail will rise by about three percent starting in July. The board that oversees Metro approved the increases on Thursday.

The fare structure for Metrorail is pretty complicated. There are "peak" fares and "off-peak" fares. There is a "boarding charge" and then a mileage charge for the distance traveled on each trip. All of those rail prices are going up, but not all transit fares at Metro are going up.

The board that oversees Metro operates three different transit systems: an extensive regional bus network, the second-busiest subway system in the nation, and MetroAccess, which offers door-to-door service for the most vulnerable of passengers.

Good news for MetroAccess riders: the new maximum fare will be reduced from $7 to $6.50.

Rail fares are going up across the board, both peak and off-peak.

It will be the first hike in rail fares in two years and Metro's general manager, Richard Sarles, said the money is needed to keep improving the subway, which he says has gotten better.

"I ride it every day and when I get on the escalators, much more often, those escalators are working, much more often than they were a few years ago,” Sarles said. “The trains are arriving on time much more often than they were. And the place is cleaner, it looks better. There's more lighting in the stations."

When it comes to the new bus fares, the picture is mixed. Currently, Metro bus riders are charged an extra 20 cents a ride if they pay with cash rather than with a SmartTrip card. That cash surcharge is going away. So that's a reduction in fare for some bus customers. But the basic fare for Metro buses is rising from $1.60 to $1.75 -- a nine percent jump.

In the past, Metro bus operations have been more heavily subsidized as compared with the rail system where passengers pay for about 70 percent of the operating costs.

The board is clearly trying to get more customer revenue to cover the cost of bus service.

Parking rates will also go up in lots at most suburban stations. But in most cases, parking at Metro lots will rise by only ten cents a day.

FOX 5's John Henrehan offered this breakdown of the changes included the proposal:

- Rail fares will likely rise by just under 3% in July. WMATA's finance committee has unanimously approved such a proposed budget.

- Things are more complicated when it comes to bus fares. Bus riders using SmartTrip cards will pay a $1.75, up 9% from the current fare of $1.60.  However, bus riders who use cash currently pay a 20-cent surcharge. That will go away in July, so cash bus riders' fares are being reduced

- Parking fees at Metro's suburban rail stations will rise also, but only by 10 cents a day. Earlier plans called for a 25-cent hike

- Last time Metro raised rail, bus, and parking rates was July 2012.

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