Metro Proposes Higher Fares, Longer Wait Times in ‘Reality Check’ Budget

Wiehle Reston-East Metro/Credit: Mike HeffnerMetro released on Sunday what it’s calling a “reality check” budget proposal that would increase fares and jurisdiction contributions while cutting jobs and services.

One of the more austere measures the FY18 plan proposes is downsizing Metro’s workforce by 1,000 positions in an attempt to close an estimated $290 million budget deficit.

“The most difficult part of this plan is the impact for Metro customers and employees,” Metro’s General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld, said in a press release. “Tough choices are required to balance the operating budget.”

Peak-hour rail fares would increase 10 cents, with $2.25 as the new minimum and a $6 maximum one way. Off-peak rail fares would increase 25 cents to $2. Off-peak rail riders would pay the $2 boarding charge in addition to current distance-based fares. Other proposed fare changes beginning

July 1, 2017, include:

  • For bus riders, one-way local bus fares would increase from $1.75 to $2.
  • Express bus fares would increase from $4 today to $4.25, and daily parking fees would increase 10 cents.

In addition, the majority of rail service would be reduced, making trains less frequent during peak and off-peak travel times. Headway between trains would grow to 15 minutes during most off-peak periods. Other proposed changes to rail service include:

  • Trains would run every 8 minutes in peak periods instead of every 6 minutes today.
    During peak periods, trains would operate every 2-4 minutes at stations served by multiple lines in the system’s core.
  • Service would become more frequent for Blue Line riders, where trains are now scheduled every 12 minutes.
  • Rush+ trains would be eliminated.

Also, about a dozen low-ridership bus routes are up for elimination.

Despite these severe cuts, Metro is still seeking an additional $130 million from the District, Virginia and Maryland. This would help offset a forecasted ridership drop of more than 20 percent from 2009, and rising maintenance costs.

“Metro has to face reality when it comes to what the region says it can afford and direct those resources to best serve the riders we have today,” Wiedefeld said. “This plan has Metro doing everything in our power to get major expense categories under control while improving safety and making the trains run on time.”

The proposal will go before the Board’s Finance Committee at its Thursday meeting. Metro’s Board of Directors will be asked at its December meeting to approve a public hearing, as well as other online and community-based outreach for consideration of the budget.

Community outreach and public hearings would begin in late January, and the full budget would take effect July 1, 2017 if approved.

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