Metro considering rate hikes, eliminating routes starting in summer 2017

WASHINGTON DC -- By midsummer bus and rail ticket prices could rise and service to areas like Tysons Corner, Indian Head and College Park could be eliminated or greatly reduced.

It’s all a part of what Metro leaders are considering as they ask the public for comments on the 2018 Fiscal Year Budget.

The public has until February 6 to add their thoughts, concerns or recommendations.

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority leaders are dealing with a $290 million budget shortfall. They blame fewer riders and more too many routes and employees given the demand for rail and bus service. For example, Metro says average daily ridership is down from 750,000 people in 2009-10 to 660,000 trips in 2015-16.

Board members are considering cutting about 500 positions (about 1,000 since November 2015) to help save costs. There are also proposed changes to rail and bus service that could help reduce revenue. Routes to areas furthest from Washington DC could be eliminated completely while rail service in the city could be reduced adding to the time riders would wait between trains and buses.

Employees and citizens who showed up for a public hearing on the proposed budget Monday railed on the proposed cuts. Many are opposed to raising ticket prices and reducing the number of routes offered.

"I ask you to not increase the fare," said Darnise Bush, who fears a costlier ticket could make getting to work too difficult for the people who already ride the bus instead of the train because the rail is too expensive.

Employees also criticize the plan. Linda Mercer is a bus driver who argues she sees plenty of demand for buses on her routes with passengers often riding "on her back."

Mercer believes management should focus on cheaters who falsely use student ID badges and fake Metro Access cards to ride for free.

"If we confront people about those fake cards we get assaulted," said Mercer.