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Metro wants to cash in on Inauguration Day

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Photo - Metro riders on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009, the inauguration of President Barack Obama. (Examiner file photo)
Metro riders on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009, the inauguration of President Barack Obama. (Examiner file photo)
Local,Transportation,Kytja Weir

Metro wants to charge peak fares and full parking fees for the 2013 presidential inauguration, though the Jan. 21 event falls on what would normally be a holiday, when riders would enjoy reduced fares and free parking.

The transit agency plans to ask its board members Thursday to allow it to raise the rates for the swearing-in of the next president, according to a memo.

Metro already plans to be open longer than usual on Inauguration Day, when ridership is typically very high. It will be open that day from 4 a.m. until 2 a.m. that evening and would be charging peak fares for much of the that time. Metro wants to have a $15 commemorative day pass for Inauguration Day riders, the paper version of which would cost $14.

Inauguration commuter train service
Virginia Railway Express and MARC typically do not offer service on federal holidays such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but have provided special service for past inaugurals. VRE has not decided what to do for the 2013 event. The Maryland Transit Administration plans to run limited train service only on its Penn Line for the event, charging the regular $7 fare for a one-way trip between Baltimore and D.C. But MARC spokesman Terry Owens said the administration is also considering a commemorative keepsake pass for $15, a $2 markup from the usual round-trip price.

The plan Metro is proposing is the same one it used for President Obama's inauguration in 2009, a record-setting day for ridership that fell the day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This year, however, the inauguration falls on the holiday, when riders would typically get a break on fares and parking.

The agency declined to discuss the issue Tuesday, deferring until board members could discuss the matter Thursday.

Metro does expect fewer riders for the 2013 inauguration than it had in 2009 regardless of who is being sworn in.

Obama's historic swearing-in drew 1.8 million people to the National Mall and parade route, generating 1.5 million trips on Metro's buses and trains, or nearly double the system's daily average of 700,000 trips. The next inaugural is more likely to draw 500,000 to 800,000 people to the Mall, Metro projects. That would mean about 666,000 Metro trips that day.

Still, the inauguration is a big deal for the agency as eyes from around the world focus on the nation's capital that day.

Even with the higher fees, the inauguration will not necessarily be a moneymaker for Metro.

Four years ago, Metro charged twice the regular $5 cost for a commemorative SmarTrip card. In the four days around the historic inauguration of America's first black president, Metro took in an extra $2.5 million. But with the extra costs Metro incurs providing service on Inauguration Day -- including employee overtime -- it still made about $2 million less than it spent.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee did not reimburse Metro the $5.28 million the transit agency sought for the extra hours of service in 2009. Even so, the agency said it will seek reimbursement from the committee again next year.

kweir@washingtonexaminer.com

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