Metro’s Board heard public reactions Thursday to proposed fare hikes

Metro’s board of directors welcomed public comments during a meeting on Thursday to discuss proposed fare hikes and service reductions in order to compensate for an expected budget deficit.

Though not yet set in stone, the budget proposal being considered would provide for up to a 10-cent increase for both Metrorail and Metrobus fares. Additionally, rail headways would increase, leaving more time between trains in some cases, and late-night rail service would be eliminated, with some bus routes being eliminated and airport service ending entirely.

Those in attendance at the hearing included Coalition for Smarter Growth Executive Director Stewart Schwartz, who called for local governments to take responsibility for funding, leaving fare hikes out of the new budget.

D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans, who recently joined WMATA’s board, also weighed, coming out against both fare increases and service cuts.

Subsequent hearings will be held in March and April, with a May vote likely to finalize Metro’s budget for the new fiscal year. If the fare hikes are included, they would go into effect in July.

The organization’s financial problems stem from numerous causes, including a drop in ridership, reduced transit benefits and increased operating expenses.

Initially, fare increases were expected to be left out of the picture, with local jurisdictions being called upon to help fill the gaps in what is expected to be a $1.8 billion budget for the next year. Board members received negative signals from politicians, however, and are now pushing to get that money from fares instead.

If they’re successful, it would mark the second year in a row that Metro has made fares more expensive. On the coattails of a year that has seen one passenger death and routine service disruptions from smoke and fire incidents, that may end of being a hard pill for its customers to swallow.

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