Metro fare increase faces glitch

Metro fare increase faces glitch
FARE FOLLIES - Thousands of Metrobus riders who should have been able to pay a reduced fare because they used SmarTrip cards ended up having to pay the full rate when prices rose earlier this month.

Newly increased Metro fares have not gone into effect flaw-free, as thousands of Metrobus riders who used SmarTrip cards had to pay the full fare instead of a free or discounted charge earlier this month.

Approximately 23,000 Metrobus riders who paid their fares with SmarTrip cards were inadvertently charged the full rate, rather than getting a free or discounted charge, according to information on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's Web site.

Individuals faced the overcharge while transferring to multiple Metrobuses or between Metrorail lines. To make up for the error, WMATA offered free bus rides to commuters who showed their SmarTrip cards to bus operators all day Sunday and until noon Monday, according to the Web site.

There have been no other glitches in the fare increasing process, according to Steven Taubenkibel, a WMATA spokesman.

It now costs more for Metrobus users who do not pay with a SmarTrip card and rush hour Metrorail riders to travel. Metrobus users who do not pay with a SmarTrip card face a 10-cent fare increase, raising the cost of a ticket from $1.25 to $1.35, according to WMATA's Web site.

Individuals will be charged the old bus fare if they use their SmarTrip card. WMATA is doing this to encourage people to make the SmarTrip cards the more prevalent means of payment, Taubenkibel said.

"The idea is to get people to go away from using cash fares," he said. "People using SmarTrip cards gives others more opportunity to use bus and Metro and it saves us money, and it allows customers a convenience to load more funds on their cards."

Not having to pay an increased fare charge appears to be a sensible move, according to Leeann Glocker, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences.

"I think it seems fair, especially since you do pay a startup fee for the SmarTrip card," Glocker said. "[SmarTrip is] just faster, more reliable and makes the process a lot easier, especially when you want to get home fast."

The rush hour base fare for Metrorail riders will increase 30 cents from $1.35 to $1.65 and may rise as much as 75 cents per ride for some commuters depending on the distance traveled. Metrorail riders will not be exempt from this fare increase if they use a SmartTrip card, according to the Web site.

There are no fare increases for Metrorail times considered off-peak according to the Web site. Off-peak refers to all hours outside the rush periods, which are from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and 3:01 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Kim Ryan, a senior in the School of Communication, said the fare hike has already affected her.

"It actually killed me this week because I was working every day 9 to 5 and I had to pay that extra 30 cents," Ryan said. "I went through that money a lot faster on my Metro card."

WMATA workers will place signs describing the fare increases on the approximately 1,500 Metrobuses and 86 Metrorail stations within the system. Additionally, online fare charts and trip planners on Metro's Web site can be used to inform riders of travel costs. The WMATA Board of Directors approved the increased travel fares to aid in closing a budget shortfall. The increase was the first the agency implemented in the last four years, according to the Web site.

Kyle Garber, a junior in CAS, said the fare increase was potentially a good thing.

"If D.C. needs money, I think it's a good way to do it," he said. "The fare was cheap to begin with. If they are going to put that money to bettering the bus and rail system, then I think it's a great idea"

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