Students taking the Metro next fall may pay higher fares as city transportation officials struggle to close the gap on a $48 million budget shortfall. The budget change will not affect plans to create a student discount card program, officials said.
The Metro Board Budget Committee, which wants to increase passenger revenues by $24 million, is considering increasing the boarding fare by 30 cents or increasing rush hour fares by 60 cents, said Cheryl Johnson, assistant director for Metro Media Relations. She said Metro could also choose to increase parking rates at Metrorail stations but noted that a raise in parking rates would not preclude a raise in fares.
The committee, originally slated to release its budgetary recommendations to the Metro Board of Directors last Thursday, postponed the announcement until later this week, after further discussions.
Johnson said a final decision must be made by July 1, adding that any change in fares would take 60 to 90 days to implement.
She also said Metro wouldn’t implement all proposed hikes and would only be raising prices to the point at which Metro would generate an extra $24 million in revenues.
Douglas Stallworth, senior transportation planner for the D.C. Department of Transportation, said the anticipated fare hikes have had no effect on plans being made to introduce a university pass for college students in the metropolitan area.
The “U-Pass,” modeled after programs already in place in Chicago, Atlanta and Cleveland, would give college students unlimited Metrorail use by tacking on a fee to students’ tuition bill.
“We are working on a proposal based on a number of requests from college students to get a student Metro pass like the ones we have for grades 12 and below,” Stallworth said.
Currently, D.C. public school students can purchase a reduced fare pass that allows them to travel anywhere within the District. The pass cannot be used for travel in Maryland or Virginia and is not available to college students.
“We have interest from (the University of) Maryland, George Mason, American and Catholic universities,” Stallworth said.
Eric Daleo, executive vice president of the Student Association and member of the D.C. Metro University Student Alliance, said one discount under review includes a $75-per-semester fee with tuition for all students at a participating university for unlimited Metrorail use.
Daleo said one concern with this fee system is that all students at a participating school would have to pay the fee, including students who would not benefit from an unlimited-use pass.
“Within the Student Association there hasn’t been much support (for) that,” said Daleo, referring to the unlimited-use pass. “It’s not that they don’t support the concept or the idea, it is that they don’t support it because every student would have to pay for it. If this was an option for some students to take and others did not have to, then they would go for it.”
He also said any proposed increase in tuition would have to be approved by the Board of Trustees.
Daleo said students may be asked if they support the $75 fee in a tuition action survey in the fall.
Some students said they would greatly benefit from an unlimited Metro pass.
“I’m not typical,” sophomore Alicia Warren said. “I use the Metro to go back and forth from work and I take a class at Howard, so I would definitely not mind paying $75 for an unlimited pass.”
“I average about one round-trip Metro ride a week,” sophomore Reid Wilson said. “Last fall I interned on Capitol Hill so I took the Metro to get to work. I would use the Metro much more if a student pass were available.”
-Michael Barnett contributed to this report.