- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Some of Metro’s biggest customers — work commuters — said yesterday the agency’s biggest fare increase in history will not force them into alternative transportation, but it would be easier to take with improved service.

“Only in D.C. does the service decrease while the prices increase,” said Chris Rorick, 33.

Mr. Rorick, who commutes from Germantown, said his employer pays his transportation expenses, but he opposes the increase “on principle.”

The increases of 10 cents for a bus trip and as much as 75 cents for a subway ride took effect Sunday, but the full force was not felt until the Monday-morning commute.

“I have to ride Metro,” said Lindsay Keller, 22, of Alexandria. “I don’t have a car.”

Metro General Manager John B. Catoe said the increases were needed to close a $109 million budget shortfall projected for next fiscal year, beginning in July, and to keep the aging, 31-year-old system running.

Last year, Metro faced numerous problems, including a train derailment in January, tunnel fires and electrical problems during a heat wave in the summer — all of which resulted in delays and complaints from customers.

“It stinks, [the fares and fees] go up and don’t give you no kind of service,” said Margaret Jones, 75, of the District. “They should be like Montgomery County: They let their senior citizens ride free.”

Metro bus fares increased to $1.35, except for riders using SmarTrip fare cards, who will pay the old rate. The base rush-hour fare increased 30 cents to $1.65 and the maximum fare is now $4.50.

Daily parking fees increased 75 cents to $4.75; meter fees rose 25 cents to $1 an hour; and monthly parking increased by $10 to $55. The Metro board has the option to increase daily parking fees by an additional 25 cents in July.

Nathan Wurtzel, 36, of South Riding, Va., said the increases will likely not affect him because he drives to the District and uses Metro for short trips across the city. However, he understands why some people would be upset.

“For the folks coming all the way from Vienna, they’re going to notice,” he said.

Mr. Catoe has said he is considering tying fares to an economic index to ensure future increases are predictable and fair.

On Jan. 1, San Francisco’s transit system enacted the second in a series of four increases that use such an index. Most riders will see a 10-cent to 30-cent increase, according to the system, known as BART, or Bay Area Rapid Transit system.

With roughly 339 million annual riders, Metro is the second-busiest system in the U.S. behind New York City’s.

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