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WMATA Board approves fare hikes, no service cuts

The WMATA Board just unanimously approved a budget including a large fare hike but no service cuts.

WMATA HQ. Image from Wikipedia.

The decision came very swiftly after a 3-hour "lunch break." Oddly, when members returned to the room their bellies didn't seem to have grown as much as one would expect for people who've been eating for three hours.

Could they have been debating budget issues over lunch, not even in an executive session? Reporters asked Mr. Benjamin about it right after the session, who confirmed they had been negotiating and defended the process.

The agreement includes some additional fare hikes above what was being discussed last week, but eliminates all service cuts. I'm not sure if those cuts include Maryland's "extra cuts" proposed for bus service, especially in Prince George's County, to balance their portion of the budget in lieu of extra contributions. I'm also not sure if the "good" service changes, like the Red Line restructuring to better match the actual schedule, was considered a cut or not.

Fare increases include the 20¢ peak-of-the-peak rail surcharge, applied to all trips for 1½ hours in morning and evening, plus an additional 5¢ across-the-board increase in the base rush hour fare (from $1.35 to $1.60, instead of $1.55 previously proposed), but the maximum fare will be the same $5 (up from $4.50) in the last few budget proposals.

They increase the differential between SmarTrip and cash fares on bus to 20¢. I don't know if that means the SmarTrip fare went down or the cash fare went up. (Probably the latter.) The cash fare increased more. Bus fares went from $1.35 to $1.50 with SmarTrip, $1.45 to $1.70 cash.

MetroAccess will have a fare cap of $7. Reserved parking will increase from $50/month to $65/month but regular parking does not change. Bike locker rentals will increase from $75/year to $200/year.

At first blush, this seems to be a bad set of changes for short-range riders, but we'll post more as it develops.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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3 hour lunch break?

Really? They couldn't have ordered in and had a working lunch?

3 hour lunch break and they deferred the decision again on fare hikes? This is malpractice.

Some people actually pay for their metro commute.

by DCbureaucrat on May 27, 2010 4:42 pm • linkreport

They didn't defer the decision. They made a decision, they just discussed it "over lunch" instead of in public.

by David Alpert on May 27, 2010 4:42 pm • linkreport

The bike locker price is outrageous. Bikestation's fees are a fraction of that and it's palatial in comparison.

by Dave K on May 27, 2010 4:47 pm • linkreport

When's the peak-of-the-peak again?

Also, major dislike. As someone who pays his own fare and doesn't have the flexibility to change his work hours (unless I get to work really early and leave really late), this really sucks.

Good thing my salary hasn't been cut 5% due to budget cuts. Oh wait, it has.

by Tim on May 27, 2010 4:50 pm • linkreport

"Bike locker rentals will increase from $75/year to $200/year."

I wonder if DC will be raising the price for rentals at Union Station as well? Because right now, with 150 spaces at $100 a year, it's going to take us 266 years to pay off that nut.

by JA on May 27, 2010 4:51 pm • linkreport

We pay this Board for 3 hour lunch breaks?

We need to dump the Board.

by Redline SOS on May 27, 2010 4:51 pm • linkreport

@Tim: My home, job, friends, and girlfriend are all in dissimilar places. The latter two are above the $4 range from work as it is. I'm going to get killed, especially since I work for a private sector job that can't afford to give me a cost of living adjustment.

At least I can ride the bus to/from work, but I'd might as well start looking for new jobs or waiting until I can move closer to the latter two.

by Jason on May 27, 2010 4:57 pm • linkreport

Metro will charge:
  • Reduced Fare from 9:30A-3:00P & 7:00P-Midnight.
  • Regular Fare from Opening-7:30A & 9:00A-9:30A & 3:00P-4:30P & 6:00p-7:00P & After Midnight
  • Peak Fare from 7:30A-9:00A & 4:30P-6:00P

by Matt Johnson on May 27, 2010 4:58 pm • linkreport

They should have held this in session instead of in private. Discussing this over lunch is an outrage.

Also, the max fare should have gone up. Those making short-medium trips are subsidizing the longer trips.

Lastly, Matt Johnson, that is one complicated fare system.

by Pattrick J on May 27, 2010 5:01 pm • linkreport

@Pattrick J:
That it is. Glad I didn't have to think it up.

by Matt Johnson on May 27, 2010 5:03 pm • linkreport

Maybe this was covered somewhere else, but is peak fare determined on when you enter the system or exit? Makes a difference for us out in "the burbs."

by Wheatoner on May 27, 2010 5:07 pm • linkreport

Fare increase extracts a heavy cost on daily riders to continue to subsidize Mr. Grahams pet projects (late night weekends and yellow line extensions to Target.

by Interested on May 27, 2010 5:09 pm • linkreport

The lunch "discussion" might violate an open meetings law. Does anyone know what open meetings/freedom of information legislation WMATA operates under? It's an interstate compact, so it's a bit confusing

by Tim on May 27, 2010 5:12 pm • linkreport

"At least I can ride the bus to/from work, but I'd might as well start looking for new jobs"

Ummm... isn't that a little dramatic, for something that may cost you as much as 50 cents a day?

At the same time, if your "job, friends, girlfriend, and home" are all in dissimilar places, that require "$4+" metro rides all the time, you are a poster boy for why public transit doesn't meet everyone's needs.

Get a car, man. Seriously. Or yeah, move. But don't do it to save 50 cents a day, do it to save dozens of hours every week riding around in trains and buses. You could probably get a second job with all the time you save not hanging around bus stops and metro stations all the time. That just sounds crazy.

by Jamie on May 27, 2010 5:15 pm • linkreport

Courtesy of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, here is a brief outlining the open-government laws applicable to DC:

As I understand it, the DC open-records law does NOT pertain to WMATA, per a DC Circuit Court ruling (I.B.5), and I don't see anything in the "sunshine law" part about regional bodies such as WMATA.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.

by Greenbelt Gal on May 27, 2010 5:19 pm • linkreport

Can I second Wheatoner's question: "Maybe this was covered somewhere else, but is peak fare determined on when you enter the system or exit?"

Makes a difference to those of us in the city, as well.

by Ed on May 27, 2010 5:19 pm • linkreport

It'll be based on entry time.

by David Alpert on May 27, 2010 5:20 pm • linkreport

Thanks, now I have a $0.20 incentive to sleep until 9 am.

by Ed on May 27, 2010 5:22 pm • linkreport

So I have a 50 cent hike (30 cent peak + 20 peak of peak) for my mid range trip (Ballston -> Foggy Bottom) but those who live in Vienna will pay nothing additional (no change in max fare?)

This doesn't seem fair at all.

by Ballston123 on May 27, 2010 5:27 pm • linkreport

What is wrong with WMATA that they are unable to be transparent about anything? If you're going to have a private meeting, call it as such and be ready to deal with the consequences. Don't insult everyone's intelligence by pretending it was a "3 hour lunch." What a bunch of jokers...

by Teyo on May 27, 2010 5:27 pm • linkreport

Also, I've said this before, but if your goal is to get more money from federal workers who get transit benefits, why not just ask the federal government for a subsidy?

Oh right, for some reason it makes more sense to stiff everybody, because hey, everybody has the luxury of choosing when they go to work, right? Especially the poorest people, who can afford fare hikes the most.

by Tim on May 27, 2010 5:28 pm • linkreport

Sorry, max fare does increase from $4.50 ($4.60 with 10¢ temporary surcharge) to $5. It just didn't increase MORE than the last budget proposal.

I realize this isn't the clearest since it's most about changes from the last proposal which you don't all have memorized. I'm getting on a plane soon but maybe someone else can write a more explanatory piece. Or keep an eye on the Post's Get There blog which will probably have something soon.

by David Alpert on May 27, 2010 5:30 pm • linkreport

@Ballston, I think the max fare is increasing 50 cents. At least that's what I read. It just isn't changing from previous proposals for the overall rate increase.

by Jamie on May 27, 2010 5:31 pm • linkreport

@Tim and Greenbelt Gal --

DC law on open government indeed does not apply to WMATA as an interstate/federal agency.

Each year, the Board adopts procedures by which the Board will supposedly abide. That document for 2010 is here:

The criteria for what kinds of issues the Board has deemed appropriate for private discussion is excessively broad and legally suspect -- Section VI "Executive (Closed) Sessions of the Board:"

"The Board may meet in executive session only to discuss critical, sensitive matters, and confidential or proprietary matters, the untimely disclosure of which may be detrimental to the Authority."

The list of examples of topics that this document indicates are allowed is deeply disconcerting:
"A. Budgetary matters which may affect legal positions, Authority contracts, or sensitive relationships with local jurisdictions or the Federal government." ...
"H. Legislative strategy."

Budgetary issues are more consequential than legislative issues. In that context, the former concerns me much more. But the latter concerns me simply in the audaciousness of its inclusion.

To be clear, there are issues which ought not be discussed publicly, but they are to be limited to: private personnel issues (John Jones' performance evaluation or health issues); contract negotiations (neither the **details of contracts being negotiated with the labor union nor with service providers can be discussed publicly in order to maintain good faith and progress toward agreement, and note the emphasis on the word "details"); or litigation, such as suing a manufacturer of a defective part.

But the underlying guideline for board meeting discussions must be this, very simply: All discussions shall be PUBLIC UNLESS they meet one of the above criteria I iterated.

But Metro's Board, instead, lists broad areas that are allowed for private discussion. This fundamentally undermines public confidence in the Board's openness.

I have a vague recollection that the Board voluntarily chooses to establish criteria to cover which issues are to be allowed to be discussed in private session. This is because, I believe, no federal or state law governs openness of interstate authorities -- unless the federal and/or state or local governments which have created the agency have explicitly added such a provision into the charter of the agency.

That ought to be changed by federal law -- to cover any interstate agency. Another, though indirect and less preferable option would be for the federal government to require stricter openness standards for any agency seeking federal monies.

Then there is the whole enforcement issue. If commendable openness standards were established for WMATA -- and the procedures adopted are not commendable -- their value is dependent upon its members knowing that if a violation were to be apparent, a principled individual could dare to report it.

Yes, that happens. And no, there's no guarantee in it being effective. But without such a change -- establishment of commendable openness standards (as well as some kind of enforcement action upon discovery of violation) -- there is *no real opportunity to hold the Board accountable on this.

Except public shame. And it has to rise to such a high level in order to be effective.

Governor O'Malley has made much about accountability at Metro. So has Sen. Mikulski.

Here's one very -- I believe -- easy thing for them to do.

Finally, Metro has long used the slogan, "Metro Opens Doors." In addition to there also is . Unfortunately, Metro often closes them and keeps the public shut out of its discussions.

For anyone who supports either strong public transit, or openness in government or both -- and I am a dedicated proponent of both together -- the closeting of important policy discussions is deeply offensive and serves to make the Jackson Graham Building, Metro's administrative headquarters, a fortress beyond its physical appearance.

by Dennis Jaffe on May 27, 2010 8:45 pm • linkreport

@Jamie: If you're willing to take me out driving to get my long-delayed licence, buy me a junker, and pay my insurance for the first year, you're on! I dare you to do that! Please!!

I'd better start looking at jobs in Boston and Philly where such novel ideas as flat fares and monthly passes exist and transit users are seen as customers and not ATM's. What did DC do to be given a horrible, overpriced, dying transit system?

by Jason on May 27, 2010 9:13 pm • linkreport

Don't bother with the license Jason (for all the reasons you mention). I bus-to-metro-to-bus and still am in no rush to get a car ... can we say BP oil spill.

And come on, DC's system isn't that bad. At least the signs indicate when the next train arrives and the cushioned seats and quite nice.

by DCster on May 27, 2010 9:40 pm • linkreport

Now more people will start watching those clocks at the stations.

How accurate are the clocks at the stations anyway ? One time I went into a faregate just before the clock hit 3 o'clock and I ended up paying rush hour fare.

I use to watch the clocks when I would get to a station at 9:20 something and wait about 10 minutes to go in and save like 40 cent

by kk on May 27, 2010 10:03 pm • linkreport

@ Jason

Speak of monthly passes what happen why did WMATA get rid of them.

Since they went to increase things they could atleast throw a little something and give us a pass that could be used on rail and bus like every other f**king system.

by kk on May 27, 2010 10:08 pm • linkreport

Although it wasn't discussed and I need to confirm for sure, it appears that cuts to MetroAccess are still on the table (according to the "Estimated Subsidy Impact" handout that was distributed at about 4 p.m. today. Some people will think these cuts are good; others will think they are bad. Regardless, if they are still on the table, then I must dispute the Board's assertion that this budget includes "no service cuts".

by Penny Everline on May 28, 2010 12:06 am • linkreport

@Jason - perhaps you are unaware that Boston's transit system is not flat rate? Please see this link for commuter rail pricing. "$1.70 - $7.75 Price depends on route/zone travel. See Zone/Interzone details below." The T has multiple zones and the fare varies between them.

Likewise, New York has a flat rate, but that is only within the boroughs. If you are commuting from Long Island, New Jersey, or anywhere outside city limits, you will be on commuter rail which is much more expensive.

Within DC proper, the maximum fare you can pay is about $3.00 right now, even during rush hour. Many trips, even during rush hour, will be less expensive than NYC. And further, any long trip in NYC will take you far longer than the longest possible trip in DC, since their system has much more frequent stops. It is not designed primarily as a commuter system, unlike Metro was.

People who think that everywhere else has these amazing flat rate systems seem to ignore the fact that those flat rates only apply within certain boundaries. Metro, on the other hand, serves the function that commuter rail does in other places.

Anyway, I don't know how much you pay for Metro every month, but if you're traveling 3 or 4 trips a day totalling $15 or so, you should look into a car. It would probably be only marginally more expensive even including insurance. I pay about $800 a year (even living in DC, which it sounds like you may not since you have to travel for anything), which is about $65 a month, about $2 a day. To get up to $15 a day I'd have to spend a hell of a lot on gas and maintenance. And that doesn't even account for the value of your time.

by Jamie on May 28, 2010 8:57 am • linkreport

@Jason... I should really make it clear that my point is not to argue that you should be driving instead of using public transit, though for the reasons I stated, it might make sense for you. But I have no idea what your situation is like. Maybe parking isn't an option at some of your destinations, or you like to drink a lot, or whatever. I realize that simple travel times are only a part of the picture.

My point was really to put Metro's fares in perspective. It's not out of line with other systems at all. You are a heavy user, and therefore you should pay more. If you traveled to similarly disparate places elsewhere, you would probably be spending about as much. If you lived in New Jersey and had a girlfriend in Manhattan (which is pretty much DC/Arlington) you'd be on commuter rail.

by Jamie on May 28, 2010 9:02 am • linkreport


That's not an apples-to-apples comparison. Yes, MBTA fares vary by zone, but those are commuter rail fares. MBTA's subway fares are a flat rate ($1.70).

by Alex B. on May 28, 2010 9:03 am • linkreport

@Jamie: These extra price trips are 2-3x a week and the rub are the stations involved: White Flint (work), Rosslyn (SO), Union Station (friends), Silver Spring (home for now). My average costs currently: Between $100-$125 including the fact I buy bus passes since it's quicker to bus between home and work. The fact that this "15%" deal is going to be a LOT more for the fringe in peak makes it much worse; anyone who read Metro's press release will see that the example given's increase is far more than 15%. Of course, the goal is for myself and SO to move to the midcity area where she'd have a one-seat ride to her job and I could bus it via the S-whatever and J5/Ride On 5 if our situations don't change. Besides, the Metro-accessible suburbs can't be compared to where the LIRR/Metro-North/MBCR go given the similar distances for the most part.

@DCster: I'd take away the cushioned seats, carpet, and next train signs for lower fares and trains that aren't gimpy. There's no reason for the current "Red Line Rumba" where trains often are right behind each other leading to backups. Doesn't help matters that (unlike, of course, MBTA) WMATA rarely expresses trains running very late to play catchup. It's doable on a 2-track system and given the backups...

by Jason on May 28, 2010 9:11 am • linkreport

@Jamie (again): If I drove, it would be six of one, half dozen of another. Then instead of Metro it would become the long distances of driving and the traffic I'd get on (pick one: Georgia/North Cap, Wisconsin/Beltway). Travel time isn't much more then comes the issues of parking and all. At that point, I'd be grabbing the Douglas Willinger Gatorade and wondering why the Northeast and Northwest freeways weren't built as a long tunnel with WMATA as a tolling authority. :)

It just hurts me to see that someone who works in Quincy but lives in Brookline but has a girlfriend who lives in East Boston is paying far, far less and is getting service that is far, far better.

by Jason on May 28, 2010 9:18 am • linkreport

@Alex B, that's my point exactly. It is not an apples to apples comparison, and that's why it's not reasonable to say that "other places have a flat fare so why can't we."

DC does not have the extensive commuter rail service that Boston does. Our metro functions like a commuter rail in the DC area.

It's actually a great comparison, because DC and Boston are roughly similar-sized MSAs, about 4 million.

WMATA serves 1.2 million trips every weekday. MBTA (the entire system in Boston) serves almost exactly the same - 1.3 million trips. The subway accounts for fewer than half of those - about 600,000.

There is no question that Boston has much more comprehensive rail service than DC, but even so, they serve almost exactly the same number of passengers.

by Jamie on May 28, 2010 9:24 am • linkreport

@Jason - see the comparison I just posted.

Sure, there are specific situations where a long subway trip in Boston will be cheaper. Then there will be others where it will be more expensive. The subway in Boston is only half of the picture there. It's the whole picture here.

Quincy, MA to Brookline, MA is 11 miles, by the way.

Vienna metro to Courthouse metro is 13 miles, and that will cost you $2.45 on Metro (non-rush hour).

Your Boston trip, by the way, will take you 40 minutes of transit time. Your Virginia trip will take 20.

by Jamie on May 28, 2010 9:34 am • linkreport

Yeah, but that's the point - Metro's hybrid nature means that you're applying commuter rail-like pricing to what would otherwise be inner-city subway trips.

Alewife to Park Street - about 5.5 miles as the crow flies, 16 minutes by the schedule, $1.70 with a Charlie Card.

Friendship Heights to Metro Center - About 5.9 miles as the crow flies, 14 minutes by the schedule, currently $2.40 at peak hours. With latest fare increases and PotP, we're talking $2.45 per trip.

When people complain about other places having a flat fare while DC does not, to me that merely reflects the fact that urban riders making short trips end up paying much more than other comparable transit trips in the US.

by Alex B. on May 28, 2010 9:40 am • linkreport

@Alex - I'm not saying the situation is ideal. But it's also unfair to compare rush-hour metro rates to flat-rate systems that have extensive commuter rail service.

Look again at the ridership numbers. Less than half of the daily trips are made on MBTA's subway component.

For people who use Metro extensively for general transit (NOT commuting), they will be paying non-rush-hour fares a lot of the time.

For people in Boston who are commuting, a great many of them are paying commuter rail fares.

You can't pick an ideal situation in Boston, and compare it to a worst-case scenario here. You need to look at the average situation.

Also, Boston's system is more heavily subsidized than ours is -- only 44% fare recovery compared to 60% with us. I'm totally in favor of increasing the subsidy here, but given that the system is basically at capacity, there's not much of an economic argument to be made for that.

Our buses are still really cheap, which I think is a good way to try to correct the imbalance created by our lack of a real commuter rail system.

Anyway, like I said, it's not perfect. But nor is it wildly out of whack with other systems overall.

by Jamie on May 28, 2010 9:45 am • linkreport

@Alex B.: Perhaps it's time to go to mere zones as opposed to the current convoluted system. BART does fine on zones without having 3 different fares based on time of day. If we're to be compared to BART instead of MTA/SEPTA/MBTA/CTA, maybe we should explore that.

The near-doubling of the 5A/B30 fare will also backfire. Big time. Why do I get the vision of Dulles/BWI running employee shuttles from West Falls Church/Greenbelt a la what SFO began doing when the BART fare got too out of hand for daily users?

by Jason on May 28, 2010 9:49 am • linkreport


I think simplifying the system to be based on zones would be a big improvement in the legibility of the system and the fare structure.

Ideally, I'd love to see a regional approach where these fares are integrated with all the regional transit provides (bus, commuter rail, etc) with coordinated transfers and whatnot, but I'd settle for WMATA taking the lead on simplifying the system.

by Alex B. on May 28, 2010 9:54 am • linkreport

Another idea is to flat-fare it within the DC boundaries and for stations right on the line (Rossyln, Silver Spring, Southern Ave, Capitol Heights, maybe Bethesda). It'd hurt the people in the far-out burbs but it'd allow for passes to exist and it'd make the Exitfare machines useful again.

by Jason on May 28, 2010 10:00 am • linkreport

"Bus fares went from $1.35 to $1.50 with SmarTrip, $1.45 to $1.70 cash"

Excellent. The cash fare will take at least one bill and four coins (or three coins if you overpay by 5 cents). The problem with this is that it's a burden on everyone since it takes that much longer for the person paying cash to pay, thus making the bus stop for a longer period. Hopefully more people will move to SmartTrip with this as it only takes 25 trips to break even (and that's not even counting transfers).

by Steven Yates on May 28, 2010 10:01 am • linkreport

@Jason - it's not that much different practically speaking. The maximum non-rush-hour fare within DC that I could find (Tenleytown to Capitol Heights) is only $2.45, barely more than NYC's flat rate of $2.25.

The rush hour fare is $3.75, but again, how likely is this to affect people who are using the subway to get around town? If you're traveling during rush hour, it's a near certainty that you are going to work, and I don't see the problem with our rate structure reflecting it's use for this purpose.

by Jamie on May 28, 2010 10:16 am • linkreport

@Steven Yates; yep, exactly. Round numbers are better.

On a lot of the usual commuter lines, people who are paying in cash are people who have forgotten/lost their smartTrip. Has happened to me a few times.

Developing an etiquette system (cash users queue last) would help move the lines along. Creating "Smart-trip only" express buses would also help.

Having SmartTrip available at CVS is great, but makes it easier to get a new one, but many times I don't realize the smarttrip is not in the wallet until I get on the bus....

by charlie on May 28, 2010 10:33 am • linkreport

With the exception of the weekend, when the MARC trains don't run, I don't see why anyone not already living near the Greenbelt stop would ever choose to take the B30 over the train. The MARC train costs $6.50 from Union Station to BWI and offers a quiet, smooth ride. The B30 is bumpy and overcrowded and it's now going to be $6?!

As for Dulles, I guess I'll have to wait until the Silver Line gets there for me to fly out from there again...

by Teyo on May 28, 2010 10:54 am • linkreport

@Teyo: 5A bus to dulles. It stops twice. It's awesome.

But hey, if we have to spend several billion dollars to build a train that stops 38 times between downtown DC and Dulles, instead of getting on the incredibly efficient express bus that hardly anyone uses (in my experience), then so be it.

I just hope they don't stop running that bus whenever the train is finished, because there's no way the train will take less time.

by Jamie on May 28, 2010 10:58 am • linkreport


I lived in Rosslyn for 2 years and would often walk by the 5A stop at all times of the day. I have rarely seen the bus not full or completely packed on its way to the airport. I haven't lived there in almost a year now so I'm not sure if they've gotten a bigger bus or added more frequent service, but even when it was cheaper I never considered Dulles because it involved taking that bus that was so crowded. The Silver Line might get crowded too, but with 8 cars on the 7 series and more frequent service, I would be willing to put up with the longer ride since each 8 car train would carry the equivalent of several 5A buses.

Think of it this way: If the bus is too full for you to get on (and I've seen that happen with the 5A a few times), the next bus won't come for 30 to 40 minutes and chances are you're missing your flight or cutting it very close. If the Metro comes and it's packed, the next train will likely come by in at most 15 minutes and chances are you'll be able to get on it.

by Teyo on May 28, 2010 11:07 am • linkreport

Perhaps we have used it at different times. I've always had a wonderful experience.

But if what you are saying is true, this is not an argument for "fix it with a multibillion dollar rail system."

It's an argument for adding more buses, which costs about 1/10000th as much and can be done at any time.

by Jamie on May 28, 2010 11:10 am • linkreport

@Jamie; in the past few years the 5A has gotten very crowded.

That being said, nobody is going to take the silver line to dulles. Well, I think something like 5% of air passengers, and probably most of them will come from Tysons. From DC, it will be expensive, crowded, and you can't take you bags during rush hour. Not to mention very very very slow. And it will suffer the same lovely orange line delays that we have now.

And what nobody mentions is the excellent Washington Flyer bus from WFC. Very easy to do. $16 for a roundtrip? And b/c it is a tour bus, luggage storage below. Before the 5A they even ran it into DC.

Silver line will result in that getting cut, as well as the 5A, and Arlington will have worse access to National b/c of Blue line changes. How is this a win for anyone.

The 5A is one of the few buses to make money. You'd think they want to encourage that service instead of hitting up consumers for more.....

by charlie on May 28, 2010 11:13 am • linkreport

Regarding the 5A and B30:

by Matt Johnson on May 28, 2010 11:14 am • linkreport


I think the Silver Line offers a lot of benefits besides having a different way to get to Dulles, but that's been debated on this site in numerous places and I don't think it's worth getting into right now.

I do agree with you that better service on the 5A would be nice. Either increasing the frequency of service (every 15 - 20 minutes instead of the current 30 to 40) or the capacity of the bus (maybe by using articulated buses instead of the standard size bus). Again, I haven't been in the Rosslyn area for a year now, so some of these changes might have already occurred and service might have already improved.

by Teyo on May 28, 2010 11:18 am • linkreport

I am one of those people who do live near the Greenbelt Metro, so B30 is my bus of choice for BWI. Before the B30 began, there was no direct link between my area and BWI, since the Greenbelt and BWI MARC stations are on separate lines.

I use the B30 a couple of times a year, and I wouldn't call it any bumpier than driving myself or taking any other bus. The B30 route usually gets the nicer buses. Occasionally there's a bus without a luggage rack, but maybe that's due to a sudden need for maintenance or something.

The B30 also forms part of the public link between Baltimore and Washington on weekends when MARC isn't running -- from Baltimore you can take the light rail out to BWI and then change to the bus. Not ideal, but at least the trip is possible for car-free people.

I'm sorry the fare is going up, but I'd rather see that than cutbacks.

by Greenbelt Gal on May 28, 2010 11:33 am • linkreport

"The 5A is one of the few buses to make money. You'd think they want to encourage that service instead of hitting up consumers for more....."

That is indeed baffling. I would think one of the most basic functions of a transit agency is to regularly analyze usage patterns and adjust the service to meet demand. This is extraordinarily easy with buses.

As far as the silver line in general, I suspect more people will take it than you think just by nature of people's aversion to bus service and unadulterated love of trains, even if they stop 40 times.

That really gets to the root of my problems with the nature of our infrastructure planning in the DC area. We see rail as the only solution to every transit problem. But long-distance trips are far better served by buses which can have routes tailored specifically to the trip, instead of by design having to stop at dozens of places along the way.

We don't have a lot of good commuter rail in DC, and that's too bad. Why don't we look at building more limited-stop commuting options? I don't understand how the silver line is going to solve that problem, or improve access to the airport.

The commute from Vienna to downtown DC is already really long, and the trains are at capacity. Adding a dozen more stops that feed it sounds disastrous to me if people actually use it. But more likely, since the trip will be so incredibly long, adding as much as 11 stops to an already long trip,. it's not going to be popular for commuters anyway.

Nor do I see a lot of people using it to get between Herndon and Tyson's corner. Are people who shop at Norstrom really likely to take metro to get between their suburbs?

Anyway I realize this debate has been hashed elsewhere, just don't get the whole thing.

by Jamie on May 28, 2010 11:35 am • linkreport


Sorry, maybe I'm reading this wrong, but how will the Vienna commute to DC be affected by the Silver Line? You mention "adding as much as 11 stops to an already long trip" but I'm not sure what you're referring to. The Orange line won't be getting any additional stops because of the Silver line.

Also, I'm all for more transit regardless of mode of transportation. So, more bus routes would be fine by me, as long as they are affordable and run at intervals that make sense. By design, rail carries more people more frequently, but as you said, it can't go everywhere (and probably shouldn't from a financial standpoint). I guess the financial side applies to buses too though. While I would argues that buses would probably be used more if they ran more frequently to BWI and Dulles, I wonder if 15 minute intervals on other long-haul bus routes would be as useful or economical

by Teyo on May 28, 2010 11:44 am • linkreport

@Teyo - I mean, if anyone was actually to commute from the new Silver Line, which feeds the orange line.

While certainly rail is better for moving lots of people, generally speaking, it's not better at moving them on single-track systems with lots of stops over long distances.

A much better designed system would include limited-stop commuter lines that feed into the frequent-stop subway system at many different points. See Boston again.

The 5A is not rail, but it serves exactly that purpose. It stops infrequently and feeds Metrorail at several points.

Adding another frequent-stop line that just feeds the end of our existing frequent-stop line is of little value for commuters, of little value for the airport route, and I am highly suspicious of how much use it will get to shuttle people between suburbs.

How many people ride the orange line every day between, say, Vienna and East Falls Church? I don't know but I doubt it's very many.

by Jamie on May 28, 2010 11:49 am • linkreport

@Jamie; there is big opportunity for limited stop suburban buses. Take a bus that runs from Rosslyn to EFC at rush hour. B/C of HOV, traffic will not be bad and that is a better option than the orange line (crowded, no seat, etc).

You are not trying to displace rail, it is just that the orange line is overcrowded and w/o more frequent 8 car trains (which is coming when, never?) even taking 5-10% of the load off would be beneficial.

But again, WMATA isn't interested in bus except to move poor people around.

by charlie on May 28, 2010 11:54 am • linkreport

@charlie, totally agree. I don't understand why we don't invest a tiny fraction of what we are willing to spend on new rail of questionable utility, on promoting and improving bus service. We can have far better transit NOW. And I don't think that should be to the exclusion of long-term rail improvements, but nobody ever talks about buses around here.

by Jamie on May 28, 2010 12:01 pm • linkreport


Vienna to EFC isn't a common trip because there's no reason to make that trip - there's no real employment center at EFC.

Now, if you're talking about Vienna to Ballston, or Vienna to Rosslyn, I'll bet a lot of people make that trip.

The Silver Line won't have a ton of people making a trip from Loudoun Co to Downtown or to a transfer to other lines, but I bet there will be lots that take it from Loudoun to Tysons and Loudoun to Arlington. Similarly, there will likely be a lot of folks that will reverse commute from Arlington and DC to Tysons.

by Alex B. on May 28, 2010 12:03 pm • linkreport

Just to clarify, because there has been some confusion on this point in the past, the Silver Line will run all the way through downtown. Some people are under the impression that riders will have to transfer at EFC to already-crowded Orange Line trains. That is not the case.

In fact, with the Silver Line in place, all the stations between Stadium-Armory and East Falls Church will see more trains. In addition, the line between L'Enfant Plaza and Greenbelt will see more trains. The only sections to see fewer trains will be Pentagon-Rosslyn and EFC-Vienna.

And with the EFC-Vienna section, many of the drivers and bus riders who currently feed ridership at those stations will be shifting to the new Silver Line.

by Matt Johnson on May 28, 2010 12:10 pm • linkreport

@Matt - I don't think that changes the overall dynamic that much, unless it is running on separate rails from the orange line.

I was under the impression that the orange line was suffering from a serious capacity problem during rush hour. If we could add more frequent trains now, then why don't we?

This fact just means that people originating on the silver line will not have to change trains, but I don't see how that affects the overall capacity picture once you're on the same rails as the orange line.

by Jamie on May 28, 2010 12:38 pm • linkreport

Sorry, let me clarify. My earlier statement was not quite correct.

The number of trains between Stadium-Armory and Rosslyn will remain the same. However, More of them will be Orange.

Right now, in any 12 minute period during rush hour at Rosslyn, there are 3 OR trains toward New Carrollton and 2 BL trains toward Largo. With the Silver Line, that will become:
1 OR-New Carr
1 OR-Largo
1 BL-Largo
2 SL-Stadium-Armory.

This will mean that the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor will have more trains. (4 trains/12 mins - up from 3 trains/12 mins).

by Matt Johnson on May 28, 2010 12:42 pm • linkreport

OK, so if the number of trains between Rosslyn and stadium/armory cannot be increased, but the number of places served east of Rosslyn does, and we already have a terrible problem with capacity at Rosslyn (and even points east) during rush hour, how, exactly, is this going to work out?

It certainly will not result in any more people entering DC on that set of tracks during rush hour. But given that there are more people who have the ability to try do so from more points east, it sounds like Rosslyn and several other Arlington stations are going to be one hell of a mess.

by Jamie on May 28, 2010 12:49 pm • linkreport

I'm not sure how you think increasing the number of trains from 3 to 4 (per 12 minute period) - decreasing the headway from 4 minutes to 3 minutes - will make the Orangington stations more of a mess.

For more information, see:

by Matt Johnson on May 28, 2010 12:55 pm • linkreport

@Matt: you said "the number of trains between Stadium-Armory and Rosslyn will remain the same."

Doesn't that mean that there will be no change in the number of trains the go between Rosslyn and DC?

I understand that there will be more capacity available up to Rosslyn from points east. But that is not the problem now. The problem is people going from Rosslyn into DC.

If we add more stations that feed the Orange line, why would that not increase the number of people who will try to ride into DC from Virginia?

Your assumption seems to be that every single person boarding the train from the new Silver Line will be departing it before or at Rosslyn. That seems like a very bad assumption.

by Jamie on May 28, 2010 12:58 pm • linkreport

Ok - I got it - I was being dense, sorry.

So we will go from 60% of the capacity used for orange trains, to 80% of the capacity used for orange trains, a 33% increase.

Given that this proposal is based on a huge problem NOW, what is the expectation of how this is going to work out years from now, and the population increases anyway, plus another 12 stations added to the line?

by Jamie on May 28, 2010 1:05 pm • linkreport

No, that is not what I'm saying. I just misunderstood what you were getting at.

The Rosslyn "portal" is a major problem. That won't change. In the long run, it is very likely that another downtown subway line will need to be built.

Right now, 65% of peak-direction riders at Rosslyn are on the Orange Line. Only 60% of trains are Orange, though, so that's a bit of a problem.

Of course, under the Silver Line proposal, 80% of trains will be headed out the K Route (Rosslyn-Ballston).

However, there is another dynamic at play. Metro trains can operate 90 seconds apart. However, whenever switches need to be realigned, trains have to be 135 seconds apart.

Because the current pattern of trains at Rosslyn (in either direction) is OR, OR, BL, OR, OR, BL, the switch does not have to be realigned each time and that saves 45 seconds. The new pattern could save another 45 seconds. And since 45 + 45 = 90 seconds, theoretically, there could be room for another train. But it would depend a lot on operational patterns.

What that extra time is most likely to do is make delays less likely by increasing the "spare" time.

For more information on "crowding", see:

by Matt Johnson on May 28, 2010 1:09 pm • linkreport


Well, clearly, the solution is to create an Orange Line "express" train that bypasses much of Arlington on new above-ground rails, then goes over parallel to the Key Bridge, parallels the Whitehurst Freeway, stops at a cool new elevated station in Georgetown at K Street & Wisconsin Ave, then goes underground around K Street and Rock Creek Parkway, and hooks up with the Red Line at Metro Center.

Minimal tunneling, and gets a ton of the new and overflow traffic on the orange & silver lines into DC.

You heard it here first.

by Jamie on May 28, 2010 1:18 pm • linkreport

DIE Yuppie SCUM!

by Natives > Transplants on May 30, 2010 2:52 am • linkreport

Coincidentally, I saw someone with a "Die Yuppie Scum" T-shirt at Eastern Market yesterday...

Matt wrote: "Right now, 65% of peak-direction riders at Rosslyn are on the Orange Line. Only 60% of trains are Orange, though, so that's a bit of a problem.

Of course, under the Silver Line proposal, 80% of trains will be headed out the K Route (Rosslyn-Ballston)."

Which means, given that dynamic, that when the Silver Line begins, it'll be the Blue Line riders getting screwed.

by Froggie on May 30, 2010 8:01 am • linkreport

I have removed a comment from Natives > Transplants for excessive profanity.

by David Alpert on May 30, 2010 2:52 pm • linkreport

Hey DAVE their is nothing great about the Washington DC area anymore because you and your filty disgusting transplant ilk have ruined it for everybody!

by Natives > Transplants on May 30, 2010 3:37 pm • linkreport

I'm banning this "Natives > Transplants" person.

by David Alpert on May 30, 2010 3:42 pm • linkreport

You know you've finally made it as a blog when you acquire a resident troll.

by Teyo on May 30, 2010 3:44 pm • linkreport

Funny thing about his/her comment is that several of the "filthy disgusting ilk" aren't transplants...they're natives.

by Froggie on May 30, 2010 7:21 pm • linkreport

So is the peak-of-peak "to", "to-through", or across-the-board?

by J.D. Hammond on Jun 1, 2010 3:38 am • linkreport

Across the board.

by David Alpert on Jun 1, 2010 7:36 am • linkreport

Any amount of fare hike, even by $0.25 can really add up over time! That is valuable money that you could put towards other important things such as that morning coffee you need to start your day. With more people bicycling to work, the bike locker rental increase from $75/year to $200/year is outrageous and I fear it will turn people away from the healthier and more environmentally friendly commuting choice. On the bright side, I am enrolled in commuter benefits after learning about them from Commuter Nation, which saves me money on my morning commute whether the fares are up or down! Ask your employer about it or check it out at

by Vanessa Supino on Jun 1, 2010 12:55 pm • linkreport

It is a same that I told people within the wmata system about a fare box defect, which if it was fixed it would save them millions of dollars. Instead they rather punish the public with fare increases.

by Antonio on Jun 2, 2010 7:12 pm • linkreport

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