Fare to Middling

Already in 2010 there have been at least three days when all three Wheaton Metro escalators were operating. Yesterday was not such a day, and to compound the problem, during evening rush, they were apparently cleaning the “up” escalator, whose entry was covered by some unknown slippery substance. Metro had a guy standing to the side repeating his mantra “watch your step goin’ up” every three seconds — not sure that will be a good defense for the inevitable personal injury lawsuit when someone slips and falls. Meanwhile, Metro remains a budgetary nightmare and yet another fare increase may be in our collective future. Metro is just as bad as the Metro Center Potbelly Sandwich Works in terms of relentless, incremental price creep. Just Up the Pike says fare increases may be the right thing to do, and I generally agree, but the larger point (which JUTP also makes) is that Metro needs to become much more efficient, eliminating or reducing routes that have low or no ridership but also increasing service on heavily-used routes. WRT the Wheaton redevelopment, MoCo allegedly has bus route upgrades ready to go once demand is there, but really there needs to be a county-wide, really a region-wide reassessment of Metro.

To address the issue JUTP raises of DC fares relative to other cities, I can say from extensive personal experience that Seattle’s public transit system is not great (although finally getting better with the addition of some light rail) and Portland is a much smaller city (with excellent public transportation and lots of bike lanes). But of course San Francisco is a good point of comparison, and I would add that New York City subway and bus fares are $2.25, and Boston’s are as low as $1.70 for the T and $1.25 for bus. DC Metro heavily subsidizes bus riders at the expense of metro riders, and as public policy I think that’s good. But bus fares nevertheless could reasonably go up a bit. The real problem (aside from inefficiency and mismanagement) remains the lack of funding from DC-VA-MD and that problem isn’t likely to go away anytime soon. Increased dedicated Federal funding would also be nice, given the high percentage of riders who work for the government, but so would leprechauns and unicorns rebuilding Wheaton’s downtown core overnight.

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