Starting July 1, riders waiting for a Metro train will be able to leave the station they’re in without being charged for entering, provided that they do so within 15 minutes.
This “grace period” option, also known as “tap-in/tap-out,” was floated by the transit agency’s Riders’ Advisory Council and favorably received by General Manager Paul Wiedefeld. Metro’s board voted to approve the financial structure for it today as part of the agency’s fiscal year 2017 budget. The policy is explicitly aimed at boosting customer satisfaction, despite the fact that it’s expected to cost the strapped transit authority close to $2 million annually.
“This is all about refocusing on our customers and recognizing that everything we do should be focused on safety and service reliability,” Wiedefeld said in a statement issued on Thursday.
When passengers enter the rail system, they are charged a base fare of $2.15 during peak times and $1.75 during off-peak times. These fares will get credited back to riders on their SmarTrip cards with the new policy. According to a staff report released to the board in December, “same-station entry/exit transactions represent about 0.5 percent of all rail transactions in a given month. On most weekdays, there are a few thousand such transactions, while on a day with severely impacted service the figure may rise to 10,000 or more.” Metro is partly funding the loss associated with tap-in/tap-out through administrative cuts, of which there have been $1.5 million since December.
In addition, the fiscal year 2017 budget does not involve a fare increase, and includes a “University Pass” pilot program.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery