Raise Fares, Don't Cut Service, Metro Riders Plead

Hardest hit riders would be in Montgomery and Prince George's

Metro riders would rather pay five cents more in bus and rail fares than have any cuts in service.  That's what many told the transit agency during public hearings last week. 

But Metro may not get enough time or votes this year to consider that option.  Even if District members, who blocked consideration of a 5-cent increase last month, changed their position, it's unlikely there would be enough time for another round of required public hearings on such a proposal before the board adopts a budget in June, The Washington Post reported.

The transit agency has proposed cutting $13.6 million in Metrobus service to help close its $29 million budget gap.  Their current plan to cut some lines and increase gap time between bus arrivals would affect 72 routes on 42 lines in Virginia, Maryland and the District. 

Hardest hit would be riders in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, where the two suburbs are facing about $6.7 million of the proposed route reductions and schedule cuts, according to the Post.

Metro employees are putting together a report from those that spoke at the hearing and from riders' written comments.  They will present the report to the board of directors, which is likely to make a decision at a special meeting April 30.

Suggestions to $202 million in federal stimulus funds, meanwhile, were shut down by Virginia and Maryland board members, who believe using one-time funds would dig a bigger hole for the agency next year.

Maryland state officials are exploring ways to preserve some service and are asking Montgomery and Prince George's county officials to consider using their own stimulus funds to offset cuts for one year, officials told the Post.

Where do you stand on Metro's plan?  E-mail News4Midday@nbcwashington.com.

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