A brief rundown of my daily commute:
1. I catch a bus near my home and ride to the metro stop ($1, 30 minutes).
2. I catch a train to Metro Center and then switch to another line, getting off a few stops later ($3.55, 1 hour).
3. I catch a shuttle from the metro to my work (Free, 10-15 minutes).
4. Work through the day, then catch the shuttle back to metro (Free, 10-15 minutes).
5. Metro back home, ($3.55, 1 hour).
6. Bus to home ($0.35 transfer fare, 30 minutes if I can catch the right bus).
So the total here in time is 3.5 or so hours, depending on delays and missed connections and $8.45 per day. One day a week, because of the timing, I need to park at the metro station, which is $4.50 extra. But on those days, I ride at reduced fare, which is $2.35, meaning one day a week I pay $9.20. Notice that I pay the most on days when I do not take the bus and ride on a “reduced” fare.
In other words, parking is so high at the metro station that I pay $0.75 more to park for one day than I do for two peak time rides and two bus trips.
All in all, I am giving my commute $43 per week, $172 per month. Having a friend give me a ride home a few days a week is saving me 35 cents once in a while, but let’s just say that all in all, my SmarTrip card is being tapped for $170 per month on average.
I am pointing this out because I would like to say how absolutely ridiculous it is that Metro offers absolutely no manner of discounts except for Senior Citizens. I’m not saying that senior citizens aren’t worthy, in fact I’m happy that they do get a benefit.
I’m just trying to point out that if Metro really wanted to get more people to ride, if D.C. really cared about reducing traffic, and if all those people talking the talk actually cared about the environment then there would be more ways to save money by riding the Metro.
I’m going to let my number sink in for you again: almost $200 a month. That’s 50 gallons of gas, which in my car would be over 1,000 miles on the highway. Is it still cheaper for me to metro than drive? Well, probably because traffic is just that darn terrible and I’d have to pay to park in the city. But I shouldn’t have to do complicated math problems to figure out if I’m saving money.
The metro should always be cheaper than driving. It shouldn’t be “maybe” it shouldn’t be “kind of” and I should have to try to factor in some obscure assumption about the value of the wear and tear on my vehicle.
I’m a student. I work for a really large educational institution. I take public transit on code red air quality days. And there is only one single possible way for me to save any money on Metro fare: SmartBenefits.
On Code Red days I save my bus fare but still have to pay full price for the Metro. Every day I catch a shuttle that is run for free by my workplace, and it’s more reliable by far. But the only way for me to save any money on Metro is to still pay that money to ride, but get it taken out of my paycheck pre-tax.
Oh, and the maximum allowed pre-tax is only $110, which doesn’t really come close to covering my monthly travel expenses.
Yes, it’s nice for that money to get taken out pre-tax, but why exactly does Metro think that is the only bone they need to throw to us? Why don’t they offer discounted passes that we could buy a week or a month at a time for a lower rate? Why don’t they offer student passes? Why can’t they offer off-peak rates all day on Code Red days?
I know that on the one hand, it’s because the Metro is losing money, and they do need money for maintenance and expansion, as I’ve already posted how in favor I am of the Silver Line. But the fact is if there was a student discount, more students would ride. If there were discounts for frequent riders, people would ride more frequently.
It’s a basic thing you learn in retail: offer somebody 10% off and they’ll spend 20% more. Plus, if I wasn’t paying them so much I would be more forgiving of things like how they can’t seem to keep the orange line from delaying at least once a day. I wouldn’t be so cranky about the fact that the escalators are broken about half the time, or the giant floods that happen at the bus entrance at West Falls Church whenever it sprinkles. And perhaps people would get so angry and start saying “where is all my money going anyway” and calling for a massive audit of the metro’s books.
But instead, it really is so expensive that even I am sitting here wondering where my money is going, and that doesn’t really happen to me very often.
How about it metro, maybe help students out a bit? Or at least pretend to care about Code Red days?