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Montgomery County councilmembers question Metro fare changes

Under the proposed changes, a midday Montgomery County commuter could see fares jump from $7.70 to $12 or more round – plus the $5.20 for parking at the station.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — Metro wants to change its fares to help balance its budget, but the proposed new rates could nearly double the cost of a trip for some Montgomery County commuters.

"You know, nothing is free in this world. And we also have to balance the budget," Metro GM and CEO Randy Clarke said in a media briefing this week.

Clarke says balancing Metro's budget is hard to do with pandemic flattened ridership still bouncing back.

One way Metro wants to bring in more money is with what it's calling "simplified fares," which would get rid of different rates for different times of day, drop the base fare from $2.25 down to $2, and raise the cost of a mile on the train from $0.32 to $0.40 after the first three miles of a trip.

"The simpler it is to use Metro, the more people use it," Clarke said. "Depending where you're going, is not only simpler, it's actually more affordable," he added.

But not for those who travel the farthest.

For example, under the proposed changes a midday Montgomery County commuter could see fares jump from $7.70 to $12 or more round – plus the $5.20 for parking at the station, County Council Chairman Evan Glass says.

"I understand the fiscal reality that Metro is facing, but I'm not sure that raising Metro fares is the way to achieve a path forward," Glass told WUSA9. 

Metro is still debating a cap of either $6.00 or $6.50 per one way trip. 

Glass and two other councilmembers sent a letter to Metro warning that higher fares could drive commuters back to their cars.

"If we want to get them off the roads and we want to get them into public transportation, and especially get them back into Metro, we need to make it a cost effective proposition for them, and I'm not sure that this fare structure does that," Glass said. 

In defending the proposed fare changes Clarke said Metro trains are "a little bit of everything. We're trying to be a commuter rail and subway at the same time."

Which he says justifies different fares for different kinds of trips.

A final vote on the changes is expected next month.

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