Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Honeymoon's Over: Metro May Cut Service, Raise Fares

After giving Metro a standing ovation for inauguration week service we're hit with a cold reality: they're cutting back on spending like the rest of us. And that's not good. Metro has to spend. It needs to spend more each year than the last to satisfy basic levels of service, getting us to and from work, keeping cars of the roads, drunks out of driver's seats and party goers on the dance floor late into the night. All that may take a hit soon.

Metro is facing a huge deficit and there aren't but so many ways to account for it. Two of the most direct; altering service and raising fares. The good new is they're set to receive at least some of the Fed's stimulus dollars coming to the District and surrounding counties. Still, Metro is tightening its next budget and planning for a shortfall.

There are tons of ideas out there. Metro has already cut staff. They hit us with the largest fare increase ever just over a year ago. And they always seem to leak out ideas about cutting service. The worst recent idea floated (according to me) was cutting Yellow Line service from Mt Vernon Sq to Ft Totten. That would be a killer on the weekends and on late nights. Also, "leaked" or discussed: cutting certain bus lines completely, ending weekend rail service at midnight or weekday service at 10pm, raising fares again on bus and rail, charging peak fares after midnight (they tried that before) and opening later on weekdays and weekends.

My idea: Charge a flat fee for the train. Get rid of the tiered system for fares. I know soooooo many people would hate this, but I see some merit. Say it was $2.00 flat fee for riding Metro rail. Metro would make more money on the shorter rail trips and, but those at the end of the lines would pay less to come downtown. Maybe they would ride more often, not having to pay $4.00+ for a ride downtown. I'm not sure what the math is on this, maybe the flat fare could be instituted in a fashion in which fares would be locked in for at least a few years and Metro would maintain the same source of increased revenue during that time. Just an idea, and it probably won't be adopted. Better that losing Yellow Line service though.