I always maintained that Metrorail is underpriced and people attacked me. Well folks I hate stick it to you but I was right and you were wrong. Despite a 15 cent increase in the base fare (and increases for longer trips) ridership in the first six months of the fiscal year was up 4% and bus ridership (hit by a much smaller 5 cent increase) is up 10%:
Metro Projects $9 Million Surplus Thanks to Increased Ridership
Updated: Friday, Feb. 11, 2005 - 5:25 AM
By HEATHER GREENFIELD
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - Despite back-to-back fare hikes, more passengers are riding Metro, which should reach the end of the year in the black. That led one official to suggest that since riders didn't turn away after two fare increases, it means they could handle a third.
The transit agency revealed Thursday it could finish the year with a surplus of up to $9 million, thanks to increased ridership on both subways and buses.
"We should not discount the possibility of a fare increase," said Montgomery County, Md., board member Robert Smith. "If we can reap additional revenue without a decrease in ridership then why not?"
"I can give you some reasons - the impact on the rider who is transit dependent," responded board member Christopher Zimmerman of Arlington, Va.
Halfway through its fiscal year, Metrorail ridership grew 4 percent and bus ridership grew 10 percent, compared to Dec. 2003.
Financial analyst Rick Harcum told Metro Budget Committee members the growth trend is strong and stable. He predicts Metro will finish the year with an $8 million to $9 million surplus.
Zimmerman warned other board members not to get too excited, since that figure represents about 1 percent of the transit agency's budget. Even so, board member Gordon Linton of Montgomery County said he is ecstatic to have a budget come in so close to the estimate.
Budget Committee Chairwoman Gladys Mack said $8 million is still significant after the 10 percent increase in subsidies which local jurisdictions paid to avoid another fare hike. Mack - who represents D.C. - hopes a potential increase in revenue could mean a decrease in the subsidies.
Last June, Metrorail base fares rose to $1.35, an increase of 15 cents. The maximum rush hour rail fare is $3.90. Bus riders pay $1.25 on local routes.
Ridership after this fare increase is up by 20,000 passengers during rush hours. Metro Board Chairman Dana Kauffman of Fairfax County, Va., said this is like having a small town join them. He also noted that many of these riders are federal employees, and the federal government needs to do more to cover the costs.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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