- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 10, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Despite back-to-back fare increases, more passengers are riding Metro. That led one official to suggest that riders would be open to a third fare increase.

The transit agency revealed yesterday that it could finish the fiscal year, which ends June 30, with a surplus of up to $9 million, thanks to increased ridership on subways and buses.

“We should not discount the possibility of a fare increase,” said Metro Board of Directors member Robert Smith, who represents Montgomery County. “If we can reap additional revenue without a decrease in ridership, then why not?”

“I can give you some reasons — the impact on the rider who is transit-dependent,” said board member Christopher Zimmerman, who represents Arlington County.



Halfway through fiscal 2005, Metrorail ridership grew 4 percent and bus ridership grew 10 percent, compared with the same period in 2003.

Financial analyst Rick Harcum told Metro Budget Committee members that the growth trend is strong and stable. He predicts that Metro will finish the year with an $8 million to $9 million surplus.

Mr. Zimmerman warned other board members not to get excited, because that figure represents only about 1 percent of the transit agency’s budget.

Even so, board member Gordon Linton of Montgomery County said he is ecstatic to have a budget come in so close to the estimate.

Budget Committee Chairman Gladys Mack said $8 million is significant after the 10 percent rise in subsidies, which local jurisdictions paid to avoid another fare increase.

Mrs. Mack, who represents the District, said she hopes a potential increase in revenue could mean a decrease in the subsidies.

In June, Metrorail base fares rose to $1.35, an increase of 15 cents. The maximum rush-hour rail fare is $3.90. Bus riders pay $1.25 on local routes.

Ridership after this fare increase is up by 20,000 passengers during rush hours.

Metro Board Chairman Dana Kauffman of Fairfax County said the increase is equivalent to having a small town join the system.

He also noted that many of these riders are federal employees, and the federal government needs to do more to cover the costs.

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