- The Washington Times - Friday, April 25, 2003

The Metro Board of Directors yesterday voted to raise bus and subway fares by 10 cents during off-peak hours and by 35 cents during peak hours, and daily parking fees by 75 cents, starting July 1.

Daily park-and-ride commuters will pay about $7 more a week during peak hours.

The Metro Board, which also eliminated rail-to-bus transfers, voted for the increases to raise $40 million for operations.

"Many of our riders may well be unhappy, and I understand that," said board member Katherine K. Hanley, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. "But subsidies can't keep going up, and you can't cut services when you need to be easing traffic congestion and air pollution."

Other increases include monthly parking rates, from $45 to $65, and monthly reserved rates, from $65 to $95. Paratransit riders will pay 20 cents more than their current charge of $2.20.

"It's fair if there's better seating, better efforts to minimize delays, better train operation and less dripping," said Jermain Carpenter, 26, who rides Metrorail to his job in the District from Takoma Park. "If you want to say it's fair, then keep it clean and make it an inviting atmosphere."

The Metro Board also voted to expand weekend hours; the transit system will open an hour earlier and close an hour later on weekends, extending operations from 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. in the District.

The board's recommendations will be reviewed by local jurisdictions, which must respond by May 30. The board then will cast a final vote.

Metro's base fares are lower than those of most other transit systems on the East Coast. The basic bus/rail fare in the District is $1.10 compared with $1.35 in Baltimore and $2 in Philadelphia and New York City.

Metro is raising fares for the first time since 1995 to make up for a $48 million budget deficit and to reduce subsidies paid by local jurisdictions.

Unlike many other city's transit systems, Metro does not have a dedicated source of funding, so it must rely on revenue from passenger fares and on money from local governments. Metro General Manager Richard A. White yesterday said the board needs to discuss a better plan for raising fares at more regular intervals.

The transit authority made up half of the $48 million by cutting 200 management jobs. Many of those jobs were cut by allowing some of Metro's 9,000 employees to opt for early retirement.

The $40 million raised from increased fares will cover the remaining $24 million budget deficit as well as $9.6 in subsidies and $6 million for elevator and escalator improvements.

Board members were quick to point out that they are improving services while raising fares.

Metro continues to push its SmarTrip card system, in which riders buy permanent cards that store a passenger's personal information and how much prepaid fare remains on the card, thus allowing passengers quicker access through turnstiles.

Metro instituted a transfer discount of 40 cents each way between bus and rail, available to SmarTrip card users only. The system has eliminated all but a few of its other passes to direct riders toward the SmarTrip card.

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