- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 26, 2012

Metro’s board of directors on Thursday approved fare hikes for bus and rail and raised parking fees as part of an effort to close a $103 million budget gap.

Peak Metrorail fares are set to increase by 5 percent, while maximum-peak and off-peak fares are increasing by 75 cents.

The off-peak boarding charge would go up by 10 cents, to $1.70.

Riders using a paper ticket instead of a SmarTrip plastic card are expected to pay a $1 surcharge.

Metrobus boarding charges are scheduled to rise by 10 cents to $1.60.

Commuters who leave their vehicle in one of Metro’s lots can expect to pay an additional 25 cents.

The increases would take affect July 1, the first day of fiscal 2013.

The fare increases were approved earlier this month at a meeting of the Metro Board’s finance committee.

“The proposal is an important step toward balancing next year’s budget,” Metro General Manager Richard Sarles said, adding that the newly approved rate system accomplishes several goals, such as “simplifying fares from more than 40,000 combinations to roughly 11,000 different fares.”

Mr. Sarles said that over the next two months Metro will roll out information on station signs, kiosks, buses and trains to let the public know about the fare changes.

A large contingent of MetroAccess users attended Thursday’s board meeting to speak on behalf of those who depend on the handicapped-accessible transportation.

Denise Rush a, MetroAccess customer, asked board members to “have some compassion” when considering to uphold the $7 maximum fare.

“There are many of us who are working and many who are not,” Ms. Rush said. “It needs to be lowered unless you’re trying to get people not to ride. Lower the fare, make it a standard fare.”

This is the first Metro fare increase in two years. In 2010, the transportation system boosted the cost of rail rides by 18 percent.