It’s my final semester at George Mason next spring, and I’ll be commuting downtown part-time in what will add up to a horrifying exercise in Metro fare. You might have noticed your morning Metro ride has been a bit more crowded lately–more and more are using transit in the DC region, especially for suburb-to-city commutes. We are being rewarded for record transit use with spiraling fare increases and budget shortfalls. It’s no illusion. Metro is now the most expensive heavy rail system in America, in terms of fare paid per passenger mile.
According to my analysis of National Transit Database data, we Metro users pay more in fare per passenger mile than any other heavy rail system in America, and have faced a staggering increase far outpacing the rest of the nation’s systems. Passengers also shoulder 63% of the operating costs of Metro, the third highest in the nation.
On top of that, there is virtually no benefit to being a local. No monthly passes exist for Metro. For the vast majority of commuters, they pay the sticker price that transient tourists pay, a burden those in New York or Boston are able to escape with substantial discounts on weekly and monthly passes.
Meanwhile, Metro limps along as the only major transit agency without a dedicated source of funding, and has to beg for scraps every single year–and there’s nothing we can do until legislators from the rest of Virginia and Maryland buckle down and do something about it. Governor McDonnell’s knuckleheaded game of chicken with Virginia’s funding share almost cost us billions this summer. DC commuters will bend over and prepare to take the next inevitable round of fare increase, with nobody but rural General Assembly members and the wrathful vengeance of our angry transit gods to call to for help.