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Thursday 23 October 2003

Headline: Metro Warns of Poor Service

In The Washington Post.

Without an infusion of government money, the Metro system will suffer frequent train and bus breakdowns, dangerously crowded platforms and impossibly jammed trains and delayed buses, the transit system’s top manager said yesterday.

A cynic would say that the trains and buses already break down frequently, the platforms and trains are already jammed, and buses are already delayed. In fact, I’ll say it: the trains and buses already break down frequently, the platforms and trains are already jammed, and buses are already delayed. I suppose it could all be worse, though.

Another reason for transit systems to support themselves without subsidies.

Posted by tino at 08:37 23.10.03
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I read that same article and was woondering why they didn’t seek to increase fares even more than they just recently did? Does Metro’s board want it to fail? Or would Metro actually charging cost recovery fare make the system so pricey few would ride it?

Posted by: Paul M Johnson at October 23, 2003 03:23 PM

The information I’ve got says that the fares pay for 70% of the operating costs, so raising the highest non-rush-hour fare to $3.14 would make it operationally self-sustaining. At that fare, capital improvements would have to be funded by subsidy.

At $3.14, it would still be cheaper to take the train than to own a car, drive it into the city, park, etc. — not to mention that driving takes 100% of your attention, while you can read the paper on the train.

But since in Washingtonia you almost have to own a car anyway, since a lot of places have free parking, since you’ve got a lot more flexibility with a car — and given that the rush-hour fare is already $3.60 — the scales would tilt even further toward favoring driving.

There’s probably some fare point where Metro could be self-sufficient, but it’d be a lot more than $3.14, because of decreased ridership.

You’ve got to increase the fare somewhat, but more important than that is to reduce costs. The system would never, ever have been built the way it was if the thing had ever been meant to make money, or even to not lose money. At this point, about all you could do is allow Metro to get into the real-estate business. Currently, the Metro subsidy is more than recovered in the increased value of land and buildings near Metro stations. If Metro were able to earn money this way itself, though, they’d probably screw it up. Such is the nature of monopolistic bureaucracies.

Posted by: Tino at October 23, 2003 08:04 PM