Monday, February 23, 2009

Should Metro Charge More?

Is Metro too cheap?

We did a little number crunching and found that in 2007 dollars, Metro, in some ways, is cheaper now than it was in the '80s. Back in 1983, the maximum fare on Metro, in 2007 dollars, was $5.14. Today, the max you can pay is $4.50. See a legible version of the chart here.

Granted, we are mathematically challenged, and we only looked at the "max fare" column from this chart, but it does seem odd that Metro hasn't increased their fares more based on this cursory analysis. Maybe there's a psychological barrier around the $5 mark.

The same situation exists in NYC, where the nominal fare has been going down. NYC is a little easier to figure out since there's a $2 flat rate, no matter how far you ride the system.

Would you pay more if the system would become more reliable as a result?

We did our inflation adjustments using The Inflation Calculator. Below is the raw data. If you more mathematically inclined people have something to add or want to point out a gross error in my calculations, please feel free.

Year Fare 2007 Equivalent
3/29/1976 0.55 1.98
3/21/1977 0.55 1.86
7/1/1977 0.7 2.37
7/2/1978 1 3.15
7/1/1979 1.5 4.23
6/29/1980 1.95 4.85
1/1/1981 2.15 4.85
12/5/1981 2.25 5.07
4/16/1983 2.5 5.14
6/30/1984 2.4 4.73
7/1/1989 2.55 4.21
6/29/1991 2.85 4.29
6/27/1992 3.15 4.6
6/24/1995 3.25 4.38
6/20/1999 3.25 4.01
6/29/2003 3.6 4.05
6/27/2004 3.9 4.25


Michael said...

The initial ramp up was because the system was still being built and therefore the maximum ride was shorter and cheaper.

Also recall that in 2003 they eliminated the 10% bonus when you buy a $20 farecard, so for frequent riders reduce the prices before 2003 by 10% to adjust.

I believe that the maximum fare is subsidized by a policy decision of the outer counties. Those counties (Fairfax, Montgomery (State of Maryland) directly buy down the cost of longer rides to keep the maximum low. This may reflect a greater propensity for those counties to do so.

What if you did a similar chart for a fixed trip length like 10 or 12 miles as opposed to the maximum trip?

Anonymous said...

I'd like to know if Metro would make any more money by moving to a flat rate fee like most subways.

Michael said...

Depends on what the flat fare would be. In 2008 the staff report was that the flat fare would have to be around $2.50 or $2.75 for Metrorail, even on weekends and during the day.

Michael said...

The MTA fare chart you linked to appears to be for commuter rail as opposed to subway/bus. Do you know which system it's for?

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