Perhaps one area in which former Student Association Executive Vice President Eric Daleo received too little credit was his effort to bring about a sensible Metrorail subsidy for the District’s college students. While it did not produce any tangible result, his advocacy at least raised awareness about a legitimate student concern. Now, a pair of recent Metro developments should bring this dormant issue back into the spotlight.
Facing a $43.5 million budget deficit, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority enacted two measures to help erase Metro’s red ink: a raise of the minimum fare from $1.20 to $1.35 and a halving of the size of Metro trains during off-peak, late-night hours. Both changes, while helping to ease Metro’s financial woes, are indicative of a system out of touch with a significant portion of its constituency.
Outside of Boston, Washington, D.C. houses the largest concentration of university students in the country – look no further than all the Metro stops bearing college names. University students are enormous contributors to the District’s economy; students eat at restaurants, patronize bars and shop at area retailers. Given these facts, it is not unreasonable for students to expect similar amenities as local public school students, who receive discounted fares.
Coupled with the reduced size of late-night trains, Metro’s fare increase hits students particularly hard. A full class load leaves students with little time to generate the disposable income that many of their fellow Metro riders have. The shrinking of late-night trains is a setback for a city attempting to transform into a 24-hour thriving downtown and only discourages young people from exploring D.C.’s nightlife. Even more dangerous, hiked fares and cramped trains on weekend nights could lead more students to drive under the influence.
While we understand that WMATA must take steps to secure the financial health of the Metro system, it should look for ways to make sure the burden is not too high on the District’s college students. There are several solutions that could lessen this burden, be it the kind of discount enjoyed by D.C. public school students or an unlimited use card paid for as an added tuition fee. But University officials and student government leaders must breathe new life into bringing a reasonable fare reduction for college students, for as prices have continued to rise, such a discount has become long overdue.