WMATA’s balancing act

Photo courtesy of nantekoto
Crowded Subway
courtesy of nantekoto

Tom seems to think it’s a new announcement; I’m not sure. However WMATA’s inauguration website does indicate that in addition to running rush hour schedules all day they’ll be charging peak rates all day.  Parking will be $4 at all locations.

It’s tough to know what the right thing is for WMATA to do. If they’re running the rush hour schedules does that immediately mean they should charge rush rates? Are they charging those rates to reflect their costs or in an effort to encourage people who can to walk? If the latter, is it right for public transport to try – even in a limited way – to discourage the public from using it?

As someone who has in the past wondered if public transport should all be completely free I’m not sure how I feel about WMATA basing price on scarcity and demand. On the other hand it’s clear there’s a limit to how many people they can accommodate, so perhaps this is the most effective – if not the most fair – way to try to limit demand.

Share your thoughts in the comments.

Well I used to say something in my profile about not quite being a “tinker, tailor, soldier, or spy” but Tom stole that for our about us page, so I guess I’ll have to find another way to express that I am a man of many interests.

Hmm, guess I just did.

My tastes run the gamut from sophomoric to Shakespeare and in my “professional” life I’ve sold things, served beer, written software, and carried heavy objects… sometimes at the same place. It’s that range of loves and activities that makes it so easy for me to love DC – we’ve got it all.


7 thoughts on “WMATA’s balancing act

  1. I know we’ve abandoned capitalism pretty much everywhere else, but why not use supply and demand to our favor for once? Let’s face it, too — rush hour rates aren’t exactly exorbitant.

    If it makes you feel any better, you can think of it as a way of making some money from people (ie, visitors) who aren’t subsidizing their rides via various state and local taxes.

  2. Just a guess here, but I think a lot of DC residents will try to be creative and use alternate means (Metrobuses, which tourists won’t use, or walking/biking) to avoid the sure-to-be-terrifying masses of visitors on Metrorail during Inauguration weekend. If it’s charging mostly tourists the peak rates, that sounds fine to me.
    Speaking of which, I’ve always thought that SmarTrip users should get a $.10 discount or something on Metrorail (like on Metrobus) to save residents money while charging tourists using paper farecards more.

  3. Caro–they used to subsidize SmarTrip, actually. Up until I believe the 2004 (?) round of fare hikes, you got a 10% bonus if you loaded a SmarTrip with more than $20 (so you got $22 for $20, and so on). It got cancelled, though, more’s the pity.

  4. The problem with costs is a double edged sword.

    If Metro runs at full, rush hour capacity all day (and potentially all evening) on Inauguration it is going to cost extra. Probably a lot extra, considering how many people will go in to overtime. If they don’t raise rates, that would put the costs back on the locals and potentially mean more from subsidies. Then we would be hearing the exact opposite argument – the one where people say “why am I paying for that”?

    Stuck with a list of bad options, I think Metro is using a the best one available.

  5. If metro is offering all day rush hour service, why shouldn’t it charge rush hour prices? I don’t see the argument here– this isn’t raising rates, its charging the normal price. That’s fair, isn’t it?