Metro's GM Proposes Fare Hikes

Higher fares for rail and bus trips

"Better is not free," Metro's general manager Richard Sarles says.  The agency is playing catch-up, and it needs more money from riders and local governments to keep pace, according to Sarles.

His $1.6 billion proposed operating budget for fiscal year 2013 is $116 million more than last year's.

"After years of not investing in the system, we have to make those investments," Sarles told News4 on Tuesday morning.  "That's what this budget allows us to do.  Not only invest in the existing system, but provide more service to our customers."

Metro's GM wants an additional $53 million from Maryland, D.C. and Virginia.  That money would accelerate the National Safety Board's recommended improvements, the rebuilding of Metro and car replacement work.

And here's what he's proposing for riders:

SmarTrip Card Fare Changes:
- Eliminate the peak-of-the-peak (POP) surcharge
- Increase peak-period SmarTrip fares by an average of less than five percent with a maximum peak fare of $5.75
- Increase base off-peak fare from $1.60 to $1.70 per trip
- Set the maximum off-peak fare at $3.50

Paper Farecard Pricing:
- $6 flat fare during peak periods and $4 off peak
- Eliminate the short-trip pass and day pass

Bus Fare Changes:
- Increase SmarTrip local bus fares by a dime, from $1.50 to $1.60
- Charge $2 for local/limited stops, $4 for express bus 

Parking pricing:
- 25 cent increase

Sarles says the fare changes should yield $66 million in new revenue.  He says the changes will not only generate revenue, but will simplify Metro's complicated fare structure.

Sarles said that service is already improving for customers, pointing to an increase in rush hour trains coming in July.  He also said the agency needs to prepare for the coming Silver Line.

The public will have a chance to sound off on the budget during public hearings in February and March.

Metro's Board of Directors is required to vote on a final budget by July 1.

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