Metro riders voice opposition to raising fares at board hearing

There is some more frustrating news for Metro riders. The transit agency is looking to charge you more and add more time onto your trip.

Riders packed a Metro board hearing on Thursday to protest against any new fare hikes. This comes a little over a month after the fatal accident at the L'Enfant Plaza station.

Metro's board is looking at fare hikes, but they are getting an earful from riders saying: forget it.

Metro says the $919 million it gets from local governments isn't enough. Its 2016 draft budget proposes $22 million in fare hikes, longer wait times and stopping weekend service at midnight.

"What is in the draft, which represents some tough choices, we definitely want to listen to our customers and our stakeholders," said Metro Board Chairman Mortimer Downey.

The wait time increases could mean big delays for riders. It could tack on six to eight minutes during peak hours and 20 minutes during off-peak hours. At WMATA's board hearing, the public gave a resounding thumbs down.

One rider said, "People aren't taking now because it's so expensive."

"It's going to come from the people who can least afford to pay the fare increases," said another rider. "These are the elderly and the disabled."

Compared to other big cities, Metro is already no bargain. You can ride anywhere on Boston's subway at $2.10. It is $2.50 in New York.

Metro starts at $2.15 and can go up to $5.90 depending on your trip.

"The service that we have had in the past year -- the interruptions on the rail and the buses -- this service does not warrant an increase," said one woman at the meeting we spoke with.

Metro's board says it may be able to avoid the fare hikes if the eight local governments in D.C., Maryland and Virginia fork over another $98 million, but Alexandria's mayor said not so fast.

"Everyone in the region has a budget shortfall, whether it is a million dollars or $100 million, so we are trying to close that gap," said City of Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille.

A decision on all of this is still far off. Metro's board says it wants rider feedback, but if this hearing is any indication, those new fares are an idea riders are not willing to get on board with.

It is important to remember that Metro actually has two budgets: the capital budget, which funds construction and repairs, and the operation budget, which is used to run the system.

This proposed fare hike would go to the operational budget, but it is already looking like a tough sell with no clear options to get around it.

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