Greater Greater Washington

Metro should include fare increase option in FY12 budget

The WMATA board is hashing out the final details on a public hearing to ask your opinion on how to close the remaining $72.5 million funding gap for the coming fiscal year, which starts July 1. The public's choices, however, will be limited.


Photo by Beechwood Photography on Flickr.

The proposal includes a narrowly targeted fare increase, which would increase the discounted bus fares associated with the Anacostia Metrorail station.

Those bus fares will be increased to match the bus fares in the rest of the region, except for customers that are transferring between bus and rail transit. The fares were reduced back when the Green Line opened and the bus lines which used to travel farther into the city were truncated.

Another part of the proposal eliminates three bus routes (K1, N8 and E6), and extends the wait between weekend trains to as much as 25 minutes.

Unfortunately, WMATA did not include any other options for the public hearings. Customers can come to complain about the proposed service reductions or about the specific fare increases, but there is no general fare increase option on the table.

Last year, WMATA included a "menu" of options to close the gap, including options for fare increases.

We were strong advocates of the menu approach last year, and hope WMATA will try the approach again, the public should be given some choices when asked how to close the budget gap in a public hearing. The Board should have the WMATA staff include a fare increase of up to 5% as one of the advertised options for closing the gap.

Michael Perkins blogs about Metro operations and fares, performance parking, and any other government and economics information he finds on the Web. He lives with his wife and two children in Arlington, Virginia. 

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The menu was limited because the jurisdictions did not want service cuts, and instead chose to cover them with subsidy. Many of other original options were clearly not going to be considered so why scare the public with them. 2 consecutive years of fare increases wouldn't sit well with folks either.

Jurisdictions are giving all indication that they want to kick in more subsidy to maintain current subsidy and fare levels. That's what folks have been complaining about last year and historically, so you shouldn't really complain about it. If folks really want to pay more fares to metro instead, I'm sure they would greatly appreciate that commentary at the next public hearing :)

by Jason on Apr 12, 2011 3:33 pm • linkreport

WMATA' s presentation to the board is badly lacking in framing.

Here are some alternative viewpoints:

1. Non-federal smart benefits riders declined 5.4% in metrorail. Federal benefits riders increased by 2.6&

2. 26% of all rail passengers are riding for free. Another 20% get smartbenefits.

3. Airport bus usage down 15%.

4. Change of Peak of Peak. Sure, you don't see much decrease. You also see a huge increase (2%) at 9 and 9:30, and a similar pattern at 4 PM.

5. Metrobus riderships down 6% from projected -- and that is with an average fare of only 1.07.

by charlie on Apr 12, 2011 3:55 pm • linkreport

Hey Jason – not everyone has time to come to meetings. In fact, the people who do have time are by definition the people who have the most time to waste waiting for trains and buses, so it's no wonder that they'd all take decreased service over increased fares.

by Stephen Smith on Apr 12, 2011 4:16 pm • linkreport

I don't mind a fare increase but Metro fares should be like those on the bus - more expensive for paper tickets vs. smart trip cards. If a ride is $1.85 now it should remain $1.85 for smart trip and increase to $2.00 for paper tickets. Metro should also install smartrip card vending machines at key stations (National, Rosslyn, Metro Center, Gallery Place, Dupont, etc). While this does seem like a tourist tax I don't have a problem with that. Paper tickets cost more to issue/use so they should pay their way.

by Andy(2) on Apr 12, 2011 4:17 pm • linkreport

"3. Airport bus usage down 15%."

Given the crap quality of the service... No wonder. Wmata could charge twice more if it was a bit more commercial in its approach (frequency, on time performance are key in this regard)

Any scope for rationalizing Bus services, lengthening all metro cars to 8 cars and increasing headways? (yes even during the peak...)

by Vincent Flament on Apr 12, 2011 4:17 pm • linkreport

@Andy(2)

Umm... paper farecards are already more expensive than SmarTrip on Metro. 25 cents more expensive per trip.

by MLD on Apr 12, 2011 4:24 pm • linkreport

Some more goodies:

1. Large increase in 6:30 AM weekday ridership -- to beat peak of peak?

2. Big decreases in 5:30 and 6 am weekday ridership.

3. weekday late night (10 to midnight) down 4.8% -- literally off the chart.

by charlie on Apr 12, 2011 4:40 pm • linkreport

Add a $1 trip surcharge

by TGEoA on Apr 12, 2011 4:49 pm • linkreport

How about pension and health care reform for the union before we have yet another fare increase. Fares are going up much faster than inflation in order to cover cadillac health care and pension benefits that are way above what most of the people who have to pay the fares have access to. The riders keep paying more and getting less, how is that fair. We are told that we can either pay more or get service cut. That is a false dichotomy. There is a third choice and that is pension and health care reform.

by Jim on Apr 12, 2011 5:03 pm • linkreport

Is "cadillac" healthcare a synonym for "middle class in the western world"?

by Tina on Apr 12, 2011 5:15 pm • linkreport

Dental should not be included for train operators who are pre-existingly unintelligible.

by Turnip on Apr 12, 2011 5:32 pm • linkreport

Save the N8!

by thedofc on Apr 12, 2011 5:39 pm • linkreport

How about getting a van to drive riders of the N8 up the hill where they can catch the 30 buses to Tenleytown? It would probably cost less than the $11/rider the N8 subsidy is.

by ah on Apr 12, 2011 5:54 pm • linkreport

Would like to see numbers on remaining balances of fare cards that are never used on paper and smartrip cards.

by Anon on Apr 12, 2011 10:52 pm • linkreport

A 25 minute wait for Metrorail on weekends seems excessive given the relative unpredictability of the service. If it's possible, I wouldn't mind such a delay if the system adhered to a schedule, regardless of construction. If the train departs at 11:10 pm from Wheaton each night, I want to set my phone to it.

As for buses, WMATA invests more than it should for routes that a vocal few use. WMATA needs to continue to push cutting inefficient Metrobus service. Can we streamline more routes so that they are more direct, even if it means bypassing certain metro stations and having people walk 4 blocks?

by Randall M. on Apr 13, 2011 7:59 am • linkreport

Airport bus service down 15%: Given the crap quality of the service... No wonder. Wmata could charge twice more if it was a bit more commercial in its approach (frequency, on time performance are key in this regard)

More likely that at $6 for the 5A and B30, the alternative transit modes of access (Dulles: $10 Flyer+$2-3 from West Falls Church from the DC core)) and BWI ($6 MARC) from the DC core became a lot more price competitive, and the service was also in some ways more likely to be reliable. (MARC/Amtrak trains ran more often and wouldnt get held up in the traffic that the B30 sometimes experienced), and the 5A would get stuck in traffic from L'efant going out on 66 (whereas the Flyer would pick up at West Falls Church and get on the dedicated airport access road

by AA on Apr 13, 2011 8:10 am • linkreport

@Randall M

So if a bus bypasses the metrostation wouldn't that lower ridership ?

When you say having people walk 4 blocks what are the length of the blocks are we talking short blocks or long blocks that are in some parts of the city and other counties.

What about Geographic barriers such as Rock Creek, Anacostia River, large parks that break up areas throughout NE and SE, Steep hills in certain areas.

A better option would be to spread out bus service across many blocks there is no reason why so many buses all need to take Wisconsin Ave, Conn Ave, U Street, Florida Ave, Benning Rd, H street, 14th Street, 16th Street, Rhode Island Ave, New Hampshire Ave, Michigan Ave, Georgia Ave, MLK Ave, South Capitol St, Southern Ave, Minnesota Ave and many more when there are streets and areas with no service.

Each street should have one bus servicing it in a specific area except for transfer points and reroute others 5 or 6 blocks away so that you serve more people while not having overlapping routes.

---------------------

What the heck took so long to decide to discontinue the E6 they could have been replaced by the M4, E2, E3 or E4 years ago.

The N8 service could be replaced by rerouting one of the other N lines and the D2

Why was the K1 seperated from the K2 in the first place about 5 years ago anyway ? The k1 line creates a problem since it leaves an area with no bus service perhaps they could reroute one of the other buses that travels to Takoma.

by kk on Apr 13, 2011 8:43 am • linkreport

@ AA; actually it is a bit more complicated than that.

5A from Rosslyn was often still full. Often see people turned away. And I know at least twice in the past six months when I've taken it the fare machine was not taking SmartTrip.

My larger point is the measured elasticity that WMATA is putting out is never perfect. Plenty of evidence of people moving out from peak of peak time. I'd love to see it the increases at 9:30 and 4 are non-smartbenefits riders.

by charlie on Apr 13, 2011 8:47 am • linkreport

peak fares on weekends from cherry blossom festival through labor day. make the tourists pay for some of this!

by dk on Apr 13, 2011 9:27 am • linkreport

I'd love to see it the increases at 9:30 and 4 are non-smartbenefits riders.

Caveat: I claim smartbenefits, but they come directly out of my paycheck (albeit pre-tax). Most non-federal smartbenefits users do indeed feel the effects of fare hikes.

by andrew on Apr 13, 2011 11:22 am • linkreport

@kk
A better option would be to spread out bus service across many blocks there is no reason why so many buses all need to take Wisconsin Ave, Conn Ave, U Street, Florida Ave, Benning Rd, H street, 14th Street, 16th Street, Rhode Island Ave, New Hampshire Ave, Michigan Ave, Georgia Ave, MLK Ave, South Capitol St, Southern Ave, Minnesota Ave and many more when there are streets and areas with no service.

Each street should have one bus servicing it in a specific area except for transfer points and reroute others 5 or 6 blocks away so that you serve more people while not having overlapping routes.

This is actually not the way you want to do it. This might in theory expand your area of service but what it really does is make service worse. You should overlap bus routes in high-demand corridors, because then you have increased service along that corridor. Patrons who are travelling in that corridor (for example work/live within a few blocks of Wisconsin Ave) can wait at one bus stop and take any of 4 different buses. Those buses might each run once every 15 minutes so you increased service along that stretch to once every 4 min. If you spread them out on different streets you don't get that advantage - people can only wait at one bus stop at a time so they would now only be able to take ONE bus (which now comes every 15 min instead of every 4), and the tiny increase in speed provided doesn't make up for that loss of service.

by MLD on Apr 13, 2011 12:12 pm • linkreport

@AA what is this $2/3 method from getting from WFC to downtown? Switching buses stinks.

by movement on Apr 13, 2011 12:26 pm • linkreport

@movement
Off-peak metro is $2.15 from Metro Center to WFC...

by MLD on Apr 13, 2011 12:33 pm • linkreport

Ah, so it is more like $2$5. Got it.

by movement on Apr 13, 2011 12:51 pm • linkreport

@ MLD
Why should some areas have transit and others not?

The buses should not overlap; what should be done is increase the amount of buses on highly used route. The 70 and x2 run fine by themselves why can’t others? I see no problem having a local route plus an express route on a street there just does not need to be to local routes travel the same routes except for the end.

Case in point the 32 and 36 from friendship heights to Pennsylvania & Minnesota Ave they have the same exact route there is no reason why these two routes should share 80 % of the same route. They would be fine if they both didn’t go to Friendship Heights.

If you pull out a map and plot every bus route (which I have done before) you can see huge areas that are underserved while others have too much service. I’m mostly talking about areas that have 4 or more buses when there are other streets that could be used such as with all buses going out of Rhode Island Ave and MLK

MLK has probably about 10 buses give or take using the road while other areas are empty, Rhode Island Ave has almost all buses going the same route from DC to MD there is no reason why one or two routes could be rerouted to serve other areas.

by kk on Apr 13, 2011 11:48 pm • linkreport

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