Metro commuters in the D.C. region during major events such as the Fourth of the July celebration will pay slightly more to travel.
The board of directors voted Thursday, Dec. 13 to charge riders peak fares for special events. However, peak fares will not occur all the time and Metro staff estimates it could happen about five times a year.
A summary of the resolution, which goes into effect immediately, says the general manager will determine “when a regional event requires peak service and implement peak fares as necessary to keep Metro safe, reliable and affordable.”
A memorandum shows the fare increase would range from 25 cents to $2.15.
Michael Goldman, who represents Montgomery County on the board, called it a “backdoor” fare increase and said it would discourage families and Washington Nationals fans such as himself from using Metro.
“We’re essentially engaging in a fare increase for a particular segment of our ridership that we should be encouraging to use Metrorail,” said Goldman, the only person who voted against the measure. “It is totally ridiculous and makes no sense at all.”
Corbett Price, who represents the District on the board, took exception to Goldman’s characterization.
“You need to stop talking about backdoor fare increases, you’re only confusing the public when you make these kind of comments,” he said.
Goldman also disagreed with a proposal to charge peak rates to expand rush-hour service when more trains run during those times.
The plan will be part of public hearings on the fiscal year 2020 budget General Manager Paul Wiedefeld released last month. The board didn’t want sweeping fare increases and they aren’t part of the proposed budget.
However, some board members wanted to charge a fare increase for the expansion of rush-hour service that would run until 10 a.m. (currently 9:30 a.m.) in the mornings and until 8:30 p.m. (currently 7 p.m.) in the evenings.
Goldman proposed overall fare increases to spare jurisdictions from paying for any additional service provided by Metro.
Wiedefeld admitted a charge in peak fares for more rush-hour service could decrease ridership. A rider could pay more when entering a station at 9:45 a.m. even when exiting after 10 a.m.
“It will have an impact,” he said. “It always does, but the logic is sound. The service will be much better. We’ll have many more options.”
Public hearings on the budget could take place the same month officials review whether to offer late-night service.
Metro staff will research additional time to conduct at least eight hours of maintenance work to assess whether to keep the current hours, or revert to closing Metrorail stations after midnight a few years ago.
“I think if you were to ask everybody would you like to have late-night hours, we’d all say, yes,” said Christian Dorsey, who represents Arlington County, Virginia, on the Metro board. “The question becomes how do we balance that with the necessary conditions of the system? It’s our responsibility to know Metro’s needs and to make those decisions about what’s properly balanced.”
Metro officials explained its need to continue a preventive maintenance program it launched and one Wiedefeld continues to support.
According to Metro figures, maintenance and investments to clean track beds, install new cables and other infrastructure work led to an 86 percent reduction of track incidents in first quarter of this fiscal year versus first quarter of fiscal year 2017. During that same timeframe, Metro experienced a 76 percent of emergency work.
Metro staff has said maintenance work mainly takes place when stations are closed, but reverting to the late-night service hours could force work to happen during the day.
There’s a minor problem: the representatives for District could impart a jurisdictional veto, which means if board representatives from Maryland and Virginia vote not to support the late-night hours and the District does nothing, then stations could open late again by June 30.
D.C. Councilman Jack Evans, who chairs the Metro board, said it’s based on a two-year provision the transit agency approved to examine whether shorter hours allow workers to make more repairs along the rail system.
Currently, Metrorail stations close 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, 11 p.m. on Sundays and 11:30 p.m. the rest of the week.
If the previous hours go into effect next summer, stations would close at 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays and close at midnight Sunday through Thursday.
“The position of the District right now is to restore the hours as they were two years ago,” Evans said. “We need the late-night service.”