The Metro Board of Directors is getting closer to approving a budget that would hike fares while slashing rail and bus schedules.
Board members say the operational budget for Metro’s new fiscal year, which starts in July, is similar to the “right size” budget laid out by Metro General Manger Paul Wiedefeld. It calls for increasing rush-hour rail fares by 10 cents, making $2.25 the new minimum and $6 the maximum one-way. The times between trains could increase to 15 minutes.
Bus fares would increase by a quarter to $2. Little-used bus lines could be adjusted or cut completely.
On Monday afternoon, Wiedefeld released an advised plan for the Fiscal Year 2018 budget plan. The revised plan eases bus and rail service cuts but fare hikes remain. Click here to view the entire plan.
Wiedefeld said he listened to riders in a weeks-long public comment period. Riders said 2-to-1 that they would rather keep service but pay more.
“I don’t like it, but that’s the way it’s going right now,” said Metro Board Member Malcolm Augustine, who represents Prince George’s County. “If you do that you should understand what the impact will be.”
This comes as Metro’s board is seeing new numbers detailing the agency’s lower-than-anticipated performance in 2016. A new vital signs report says Metrorail trains were late 30 percent of the time, with the worst the delays occurring on the Orange line. Rail customer satisfaction fell to 66 percent in 2016, a year that marked the start of Metro’s aggressive track maintenance schedule that shuttered some stops for weeks on end.
“When your customers are not satisfied that is not a good time to raise the price,” said Augustine.
The report reiterates a loss in rail ridership. In 2016, there were 15 million fewer riders than Metro hoped.