For the first time in several years, Metro is proposing a fare hike and service improvements that would become effective next July. Standard peak fares on Metrorail would rise 10 cents, while distance-based surcharges would be simplified, resulting in maximum peak fares of $7. Weekend rail fares would be converted to a flat $2, which would be a decline for most people.
Metrorail hours and train frequency would also increase under the transit agency’s proposal. Service on Mondays through Thursdays would run until midnight (versus 11:30 p.m. today) and until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturday (versus 1 a.m. today). Sunday hours would remain the same, but trains would arrive every 12 minutes (versus every 15 minutes today). Fares on Metrobus would not change for SmarTrip users ($2), but there would be a 25 cents increase for cash fares as well as a 25 cents surcharge for “onboard cash loading.” Transfers between the rail and bus systems would be discounted $2 (versus 50 cents today), saving riders $1.50.
Metro says it wants to make the changes in order to “win back riders” after a decade that saw ridership plummet without “jeopardizing” required maintenance work. The Washington Post first reported the details of Metro’s fiscal year 2021 budget proposal, which totals $3.8 billion in both operating costs and capital investments. The transit agency expects that the changes will reduce its operating revenue by about $3.6 million but add approximately 2 million trips. “The nine least productive bus routes” would be eliminated, though Metro hasn’t said which.
Metro’s board must approve the budget, and its finance committee is scheduled to hear about the proposal from Metro staff this Thursday. Deliberations are slated to start next month and continue until February, including public comment. A full board vote is anticipated in March.