Metro fares will be rising on July 1, with rail fares up an average of about 5 percent, bus fares jumping 10 cents and parking up 25 cents.
Off-peak and the longest-distance commuters -- suburban riders headed downtown -- will be among the hardest hit, seeing as much as a 27 percent jump in one-way fares during nonrush to $3.50 and a 15 percent increase to $5.75 during peak hours.
Under the new fares, a rail rider without a SmarTrip card could end up paying as much as $18.50 for a round trip with parking, up from $15.25. Transfer to a bus and the cost rises. And that's before Metro adds a 5-cent surcharge at some stations -- the board approved the fees for improving stations but has not approved which stations will get them.
However, the agency will get rid of the 20-cent "peak-of-the-peak" fee for the busiest 90 minutes of the morning and evening commutes, after the agency said it complicated fares without spreading out commuters as intended. That will ease a bit of the pain for some riders.
|What your new fare will look like:|
|One-day pass||$9||$14 (without time restriction)|
|7-day short-trip paper pass||$32.50||$35|
|7-day SmarTrip rail pass (no SmartBenefits)||$47||$57.50|
|New 28-day SmarTrip (no SmartBenefits)||na||$230|
|Rates vary from $3.25-$4.75||up 25 cents|
|Fares will stay capped at $7 per one-way trip but many fares will rise because they are double the fare of a comparable bus and rail trip.|
The biggest change will be for those who don't have a plastic SmarTrip farecard. Rail riders will pay a $1 surcharge for each one-way trip, up from the current 25-cent fee, in what some consider a tourism tax.
For some riders, higher fares could be offset by new passes. The agency will be adding a 28-day pass for $230, but it will not allow SmartBenefits, making it worthwhile for only some of the longest-distance and most frequent riders.
It also is raising the cost of its one-day unlimited pass from $9 to $14, with an added perk of letting riders start using it before 9:30 a.m. That may be worthwhile for visitors who plan to take more than three trips, given the new paper card fee.
Metro's board approved the increases unanimously Thursday, despite a last-ditch effort by disabled MetroAccess riders who filled the board meeting.
But the board approved the plan without changes, the first step in closing a $103 million budget gap in its proposed $1.6 billion operating budget. The board still has to approve the rest of the budget, which calls for adding 877 positions to its 11,000-strong work force and raising subsidies by 8 percent.
The new fares represent the fourth fare increase for Metro riders since 2008. The agency last raised all fares in 2010, with a series of changes enacted over several months.
Rider Doris Ray said she was disappointed the board did not even discuss the paper farecard fee Thursday, which she noted will hit those who are low-income and can't afford the $5 SmarTrip cards, not just tourists.
But Maryland Del. Sam Arora, D-Montgomery, praised the surcharge, noting that other systems such as London's have learned to keep their commuter fares in check with such premium charges on tourists.
Riders have complained they will be paying more even though service is not improving. They still will be climbing up stalled escalators and waiting longer on train platforms during track work. Some 4,200 shared their input in six public hearings, an online survey and a petition.
The agency has said it is dealing with a backlog of work due to years of deferred maintenance. "This is all helped by the fare adjustment and the revenue that will come," General Manager Richard Sarles said.