Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

The poor timing to WMATA's fare hike announcement

January 10, 2012 - 01:17 PM
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Brace yourselves. (Photo: Jay Westcott)

Metro riders, know that WMATA will be charging you more — likely as soon as this summer. Google News tells me that about more than two dozen news sources are chattering about the fare hike for buses and trains, a roughly 5% increase intended to offset the $116 budget shortfall. The Post provides a handy chart to understand the general increases. Most egregious are the costs for paper farecards. Who wants to pay $6 for a rush hour ticket to get anywhere? I'll understand if fewer tourists want to take the Metro.

But what gives with announcing this fare hike now? I get that WMATA wants to prepare its riders for bad news. It's not a bad strategy.

But did anyone in the WMATA Jackson Graham headquarters realize the sheer compounded weight of how bad the last week or so has been? No one incident defined Metro's unreliable service so much as a constant, daily litany of Metro problems, ones far greater than the usual busted escalators. News of a stalled suicide prevention program after a Metro rider kills herself, brake problems, track problems, SmarTrip problems, and more, and this on top of the single tracking and news that Dupont Circle will lose a set of escalators for eight months and all the rest.

I support better, unified transit throughout the region but can't help but observe a bad trend of malfunction afflicting the aging system now. Each instance of malfunction creates a certain level of micro-hate in riders that, beyond the horde of perpetual Metro complainers, leads to real dissatisfaction, especially so soon after the string of bad events. To announce a fare hike now? I imagine the news was scheduled ahead of time and independent of any recent news ... but riders will hear it with a strong bitter sense of resignation and annoyance this week, I suspect.

I really do have to wonder at the timing.

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