- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 20, 2006

In a show of good business sense, the Metro Board of Directors on Thursday heard and quickly approved a pilot program that would allow Metro to charge vendors rent to operate retail operations in 12 Metrorail stations, equally divided between the District, Maryland and Virginia.

This initiative, which was approved two weeks ago by the real estate committee, benefits both Metro and its riders: WMATA will see an additional source of revenue while the convenience will certainly be appreciated by riders. We agree with the chairman of the real estate panel, who told the board that it was a “very exciting program that we’re putting forth.”

Retail operations in Metro stations have the potential to be tremendously successful, with newspaper and magazine kiosks catering to commuters or with a smattering of tourist-friendly merchandise for the out-of-town crowd. Metro’s no-food policy will remain rigid, however, so buying a cup of Twinings while waiting for the train in the morning is still out of the question.

The 12 selected stations, which were chosen based on “ridership, location (downtown, suburban, end-of-line) and tourist destinations,” seem to be good choices — Metro Center and Gallery Place in the District, for instance — but we hope the success of the pilot program will prompt Metro to involve more stations in the program.

Metro has no plans to raise fares before 2008, but expansions and upgrades already in the works and those still on the deliberations table mean additional revenue is a must. Metro officials should obviously encourage new initiatives that can increase revenue while improving the average rider’s experience. And while a fare increase proposal is something that Dan Tangherlini, interim general manager of Metro, will eventually need to take to the board, it’s nice to see that Metro is moving ahead with other revenue boosters.

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