Washingtonians who use Metro were greeted with the largest fare hikes in the subway system’s history as they headed to work Monday. The new fares were approved in December after months of debate, handing riders from the D.C. suburbs the biggest bill to make up for Metro’s budget deficit.
Metro’s base fare during rush hour jumped 30 cents to a minimum of $1.65 per trip. For customers traveling from the Maryland outskirts of Shady Grove to Union Station on Capitol Hill, it now costs $4.50 per trip. A trip from the Vienna station in Northern Virginia to Metro Center in downtown Washington is $4.25. Those are just for rail; parking at stations has jumped 75 cents to $4.50.
The fare hikes are supposed to raise $109 million that will cover Metro’s shortfall. But as the subway system milks more from its customers, there’s fresh evidence Metro is not coming close to its performance goals. Today’s Washington Post reports:
On-time performance has been declining for the past 17 months; not once did the agency meet its performance benchmark of having 95 percent of all trains run on schedule. On-time performance was worst during the evening rush, when it hovered in the 80 percent range. The steepest drop occurred between July and November, when service disruptions increased 30 percent from the same period the previous year.
This is not news to Heritage’s Ron Utt, who has written about Metro’s problems for years. In October, Utt questioned why some in Congress wanted to bail out Metro rather than press for reforms:
Congress should force fundamental market-based reforms on Metro by linking the continuation of the system’s existing federal subsidies to reductions in operating costs, improvements in service, and an aggressive program of competitive contracting similar to the successful reforms implemented elsewhere in several of the major metropolitan areas of Europe.
Given the sagging service and record fare hikes, Metro has no excuse not to improve its act.