Metro service, fare changes due in early summer

A train passes through the Dupont Circle Metro station. (Susann Shin/The Current/April 2017)

Metro’s bus and rail riders will soon see a set of service changes and fare hikes as part of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s recently approved fiscal year 2018 budget. The changes will go into effect between June 25 and July 1.

The fare increases are fairly modest, with bus riders paying an extra 25 cents per fare — to $2 for most lines. Meanwhile, during peak hours, Metrorail’s base entry fare and maximum fare will each rise by 10 cents, and they’ll increase by 25 cents above current levels for off-peak hours. However, a Metrorail ride whose price falls between the minimum and maximum charge will still cost the same.

“Metro listened very carefully to our customers who said they would prefer to pay a little more than lose key rail and bus services,” agency general manager Paul Wiedefeld said in a news release.

However, many riders will likely wait longer for their trains. On the Red Line, train frequency during peak times will be every four minutes rather than the current three minutes. On the Orange, Green, Yellow and Silver lines, headways increase from six to eight minutes, and the Yellow Line’s Rush Plus service will disappear. However, Blue Line frequency will improve from 12 minutes to eight minutes at peak times. Current frequency levels for off-peak hours will remain the same, after Metro backed off earlier plans to cut service then as well.

Although suburban Metrobus service will see cuts under the changes, the only change in Northwest is to replace some S2 and S4 bus trips with limited-stop S9 service in the 16th Street corridor. Metro spokesperson Richard Jordan said the schedule hasn’t yet been set.

Overall, Metro projects a 13 percent rail ridership decline and a 15 percent drop in Metrobus rides.

While city planners tend to rely on baseline assumptions about public transportation usage while evaluating the impacts of new developments, Tanya Stern of the D.C. Office of Planning said her agency doesn’t intend to change course.

“Basing long-term planning and development decisions on any one year’s operating budget is not how we approach our long-term vision for the District,” Stern wrote in an email to The Current. “We remain committed to the goals we have set for sustainable economic development and reducing reliance on single-occupant vehicle usage for mobility in the District.”

Stern added that the District supports additional funding for Metro through a stable regional source, which Wiedefeld said last week should total $500 million annually for capital projects in addition to other financial commitments. Questions remain about the political feasibility of securing a funding source from Virginia in particular, though there’s optimism that widespread support for Wiedefeld’s management may present Metro’s best shot at such a deal.

In the meantime, riders will soon see revisions to Metrorail’s hours of operation, which have been curtailed under the SafeTrack repair program. The new schedule going into effect July 1 allows trains to run until 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. However, the system will close at 11:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 11 p.m. Sundays, and open at 7 a.m. Saturdays and 8 a.m. Sundays. This schedule change was approved in December.

At the same time, a “lifeline” bus service will boost service to make up for lost subway hours. In Northwest, the only changes apply to weekends; they include:
■ increased service frequency and extended hours on Connecticut Avenue NW’s L2 and 42 lines. Last buses will now run at 3:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, and Sunday L2 service will begin at 6:30 a.m.
■ extended hours on the E4 and H4 cross-town lines, which will run until 2 and 3 a.m., respectively, on both Friday and Saturday nights.
■ increased service frequency on the 54, 70 and S2 lines, along with increased frequency and extended service to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights on the 64, in the Georgia Avenue/16th Street corridor.
■ increased service frequency and hours extended to 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights for the 30N and 30S lines on Wisconsin and Pennsylvania avenues.
■ increased service hours to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights for the 90 and 92 lines, which run from the Duke Ellington Bridge through the U Street corridor to Anacostia.